Those price hikes included quadruple-digit percentage increases for many inexpensive medications, and triple-digit percentage increases for some pricier drugs.
"You've got specialty medications, which are going up by a large dollar amount, and you've got generic medications, which are going up by a large percentage amount," said Andy Slavitt, acting administrator for the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which released pricing data on 5,000 drugs.
"Medicare is the largest buyer of drugs in the country, if not the world," but "ends up getting lower rebates" for drug purchases than many other health-coverage providers, Slavitt noted.
"And the taxpayer ends up being responsible for a greater portion of the payment," he said. "What you end up with is a situation where... drug companies can take prices up without any check on them or any negotiation from the federal government."
Medicare provides health coverage for more than 55 million people, most of whom are 65 years old or older. The system's Part D prescription drug benefit program spent $137.4 billion in 2015. The Part B program, which covers drugs administered to patients in doctor's offices and outpatient facilities, spent $24.6 billion.
By law, Medicare cannot negotiate the prices of drugs with sellers — in contrast to other health-coverage providers.
President-elect Trump, in an interview with Time magazine said, "I don't like what has happened to drug prices," and "I'm going to bring down drug prices," statements that sent stocks of drug makers plummeting Wednesday. He offered no specifics for how to achieve that goal.
While President Barack Obama has called for Congress to give Medicare the authority to negotiate drug prices, that idea has gone nowhere in the Republican-controlled Congress. And it's not clear that the Republican Trump will have any more success with the legislative branch if he pushes that proposal himself.