A timeline of eye-popping drug prices

The firestorm over steep price increases for the EpiPen — which can rescue people having life-threatening allergic reactions  — is just the latest in a long line of controversies over high prescription drug prices. A decade ago, much of the concern over prescription drug prices involved new high-tech cancer drugs, used by only a few thousand patients a year. In recent years, the prices for decades-old generic drugs have soared, as well, as pharmaceutical companies purchase the rights for drugs with no competition.

Here's a recap of some of the most eye-popping prices.

May 2001

Gleevec: The landmark drug Gleevec, which transformed chronic myeloid leukemia from a death sentence into a chronic disease, cost $31,000 a year when it was approved. Novartis has nearly quadrupled the cost to more than $120,000 — even though Gleevec now competes with two similar drugs.

February 2004

Erbitux: The Food and Drug Administration approved Erbitux for colorectal cancer. Doctors began to speak out, noting its cost of $18,000 to $30,000 for a seven-week course of therapy could make it too expensive for some patients. Combining multiple new drugs extended patients' survival, but added up to a total cost of $250,000, a huge increase over the $500 cost of treatment just a decade earlier, said Leonard Saltz, chief of gastrointestinal oncology at New York's Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

January 2012

Kalydeco: The FDA approved Kalydeco to treat a rare form of cystic fibrosis, a lung disease. Vertex Pharmaceuticals prices the drug at more than $300,000 a year. While the price is high, the relatively small number of patients with cystic fibrosis — about 30,000 in the U.S. — limits the country's total bill for the drug.

December 2013

Sovaldi: The FDA approved Sovaldi, which can cure 90% of people with hepatitis C, which affects up to 3.9 million Americans. But at $84,000 for a 12-week treatment, critics say the drug may not reach those who need it most.

February 2015

Nitropress and Isuprel: Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. bought the rights to two life-saving heart drugs, Nitropress and Isuprel. The company raised the list price for Nitropress by 525% and for Isuprel by 212%, leading Sens. Bernie Sanders Elijah Cummings to launch a congressional investigation.

July 2015

Praluent and Repatha: The FDA approved these drugs as the first in a new class of cholesterol drugs, called PCSK9 inhibitors, which can reduce the cholesterol that causes heart attacks by up to 60%, but which are priced at $14,000 a year. Because the drugs treat a common condition, and need to be taken for the rest of a person's life, giving the drugs to all 9 million eligible patients in the U.S. could increase the nation's total health costs by $120 billion, according to an analysis in JAMA.

August 2015

Daraprim: Turing Pharmaceuticals hiked the price of Daraprim, a drug that treats dangerous infections in people weakened by AIDS and cancer, by 5,000% to $750 per pill.

August 2016

EpiPen: President Obama and members of Congress called for a reduction in the price of the EpiPen, whose average wholesale price has increased by 500% since 2009.


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