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The August issue of Consumer Reports magazine has a major article on high prescription drug prices, “Is There a Cure for High Drug Prices?” The article discusses many of the factors which are leading to quickly escalating prices for some drugs and suggests some possible fixes. It cited several reasons for high drug prices.
- Drug companies can charge whatever price they want
- Insurance companies are also charging you more
- Old drugs are reformulated as costly “new” drugs
- Generic drug shortages can trigger massive price increases
The article cited one case in which a new drug called Treximet became available to treat migraine headache pain. This drug is a combination of two older generic drugs. It was then approved as a new drug from GlaxoSmithKline which later sold the drug to Pernix Therapeutics which more than doubled the price. A three month supply went from $92 to $827 in less than a year for one woman who was profiled. Consumer Reports suggests that that a patient could buy the two similar generics , naproxen and sumatriptan, for about $50 for a three month supply.
As prices go up insurance companies raise premiums and co-pays. Even seniors and the disabled on Medicare have to pay 5% of the cost for some drugs in the catastrophic coverage tier after the “doughnut hole.” That can amount to a lot of money for expensive drugs.
Consumer Reports suggests the government should take action to drive prices down by:
-setting a limit on out of pocket costs
-approve more generic versions of common drugs
-allow importation of drugs from legitimate Canadian and European sources
-use the government’s ability to allow another manufacturer to make a cheaper generic if there is a supply shortage
The article also says that doctors only discuss drug prices with 2.6 of 10 patients even though 8 in 10 doctors are concerned about the high prices and their influencing whether a patient can afford them and comply with the doctor’s treatment plan.
I have written before that drug companies are flirting with serious trouble from consumers, doctors and the government. Their contributions to politicians have kept the Congress at bay but there is a rising tide against these prices which are unsustainable and sooner or later, change is coming.