Prices skyrocket for some generic drugs
Posted November 19, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — Congress wants to know what's behind the staggering price increases for some generic drugs.
Nearly 10 percent of generics more than doubled in price in the past year, so a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing on Thursday will investigate why some generics that used to sell for pennies a pill now cost hundreds of dollars for a prescription.
Mella Pool, for example, has paid $89 for a 90-day supply of ursodiol to treat her autoimmune disease. She recently experienced sticker shock when she called a pharmacy for a refill prescription.
"I said, 'Fine, how much is it?' She said $1,000, and I said, 'Wait a minute. For three months, it's gone from $89 to $1,000?' and she said, 'Yeah,'" Pool said.
The Raleigh woman, who does not have prescription drug coverage with her health insurance, called other pharmacies and was quoted similar prices.
"Everybody understands prices go up. We can even understand some prices doubling, going from $90 to $180," she said. "But $89 to $1,000 or $1,200 or $1,700 is just, I think, inexcusable."
Tim White, owner of Hayes Barton Pharmacy in Raleigh, said those high prices are what his pharmacy is buying the drugs for as well.
"We're exasperated. We're astounded," White said.
The price spike for doxycycline, a common antibiotic, which went from $25 to $1,300 "is the one that really aggravates us," he said.
Some industry observers have pointed to the fact that fewer companies are making certain generics, wiping out the competition that has kept prices low.
U.S. Sens. Richard Burr and Kay Hagan of North Carolina are both on the subcommittee that is opening an investigation into the price increases. The committee chairman has requested information from 14 manufacturers about the escalating prices for about a dozen generic drugs.
People who have insurance likely haven't been affected by the price changes, but pharmacies feel the pinch. They collect a co-pay and then get reimbursed by insurance companies. White said reimbursement rates aren't updated enough to reflect the price swings.
"We're at a loss. We will lose on these prescriptions," he said.
Pool said she eventually found a pharmacy that charged her $900 for her medicine.
"I had $900. I could buy my prescription. But what are people doing who don't have $900?" she said.