Reasons for the increases
According to Harvard Health Publications, from Harvard Medical School, there are many contributing factors as to why we’re seeing a rise in the price of medications.
Take the case of a drug called Daraprim, used to treat parasitic infections caused by toxoplasmosis. There’s a small market for the drug, without much competition. The price was stable for years. But when a new drug company acquired the drug, it raised the price 5,000%, from $13.50 to $750/pill. Why? Because it lacks the competition needed to drive the price down.
A shortage of Doxycycline (an antibiotic) in 2011, due to quality concerns in a plant used in the composition of the drug, resulted in a 6,000% increase in the cost. The price for this somewhat common medication went from six cents to $3.36/pill. As with any consumer item, when there is a shortage in the product, the price increases.
Defined as a sudden increase in a drug’s price for a specific period of time, price spikes are not an uncommon practice. As long as drug companies are not collectively conspiring to raise prices, there is nothing illegal about this.
Unfortunately, generic medications used to be the lower-cost alternative to prescription drugs, but that isn’t always the case any longer. In fact, generic prices have actually increased, too. Recently, almost 400 generic medications have seen price increases of more than 1,000%, according to an AARP report.
Some experts blame regulatory changes associated with the Affordable Care Act, since drug companies drive up prices when they’re concerned about the effect of regulations.
Even pharmacists are often surprised and taken off-guard by the sudden spikes. In many cases, the cost of prescription drugs has outstripped inflation.
All of these causes together are responsible for the price increases that have a major effect on consumers. Consumers pay for about 18% of prescription drugs out-of-pocket, and when the costs rise, that’s a financial burden and an overall health concern on a national level. In fact, approximately 25% of prescriptions are not even filled due to cost.
Ways to save
So, how can you, the consumer, save money on your prescription drugs? Don’t worry, there are ways!
- Always ask your physician about the lowest-cost alternative for treatment. Sometimes that’s all it takes!
- Many people don’t realize that you can (and should) comparison shop for prescriptions based on price. Use the FamilyWize Drug Price Lookup Tool to find the lowest cost drug at a pharmacy near you.
- Utilize the FamilyWize Prescription Savings Card to make sure that you’re getting the lowest price on your prescriptions. It’s free and available to everyone, and you can use it on every medication, every time you visit the pharmacy!
- Contact your local representative to discuss these issues and let your voice be heard on this matter.
While drug prices might be on the increase, there are steps you can take to manage the costs – stay informed, compare prices, and don’t forget to use your FamilyWize card (or app) to help save on a regular basis.