Cost of pneumococcal vaccine keeps rising

Although the formulation of the pneumococcal 13-valent vaccine (Prevnar 13—Pfizer) has remained mostly unchanged since receiving federal approval in 2010, the price has continued to increase. In 8 years, the vaccine's cost has increased by more than 50%.

Although the formulation of the pneumococcal 13-valent vaccine (Prevnar 13—Pfizer) has remained mostly unchanged since receiving federal approval in 2010, the price has continued to increase. In 8 years, the vaccine's cost has increased by more than 50%. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends Prevnar 13 for all children younger than age 2 years—given at 2, 4, 6, and 15 months—as well as for adults aged 65 years and older. Doctors and clinics purchase the vaccine and then, after administering it to patients, usually recoup the cost through patients' insurance. In most cases there are no out-of-pocket costs. However, analysts say the steady increase in prices for branded drugs contributes indirectly to rising premiums, deductibles, and government health spending. "Pfizer and other drug companies are raising their prices because they can," says Gerard Anderson, a health policy professor at Johns Hopkins University. "They have a patent, and they have a CDC recommendation, which is a double whammy—and a strong incentive for price increases." Ameet Sarpatwari, an epidemiologist and lawyer at Harvard Medical School, says: "The onus should be on them to show us why [consistent price increases are] needed." Pfizer says that vaccine pricing supports research for new vaccines as well as ongoing efforts to keep products safe and to enhance effectiveness.