Why are generic prescription drug prices skyrocketing?

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by JASON WHEELER

Bio | Email | Follow: @jasonwheelertv

WFAA

Posted on April 8, 2014 at 6:26 PM

Updated Tuesday, Apr 8 at 7:37 PM

DALLAS — When she checked her mailbox Monday, Danielle Wells of Hurst received a prescription order that nearly made her sick.

“I was in shock," she told News 8.

The 90-day supply of a maintenance medication she’s been taking for years suddenly went from $24 to $223. She thought there must be a mistake — especially considering the medication is a generic drug.

But some pharmacists complain it’s become an epidemic: generic meds suddenly going for a premium you’d expect to pay for brand names.

“What started out as just a few has probably become 30 percent of our generics," said Stacy Smith, who owns Brown’s pharmacy in Irving. "Day after day, it’s happening to more of our generic drugs."

She said the inflated costs aren’t coming from the insurance companies or her pharmacy. She argues the problem originates with drug manufacturers — some of which have been merging in recent years, creating fewer and fewer drug makers.

Smith says that’s the perfect prescription for market monopolization, allowing a manufacturer to arbitrarily increase prices — significantly.

The worst example she has seen was a generic antibiotic that has been around for decades.

“We keep it in a bottle of 500, and I paid roughly $40 to $50 for that bottle of 500 for a long time. The next time it came in, it was $2,195.”

The best advice she has for patients whose costs rise steeply is to have a conversation with their doctor to see if there may be a cheaper alternative prescription. Smith said some patients also have limited success qualifying for subsidies from the drug manufacturers.

Wells plans to talk to her doctor about options. And no matter what she ends up taking, Wells says she’ll be dogged from now on about checking every time she gets an order filled to make sure the cost of medication isn't too much to swallow.

“Before you get it filled, call and check the price," she advised.

As for a longer term cure for the prescription price run-up, the National Community Pharmacists Association has called on Congress to hold hearings on the skyrocketing cost of generic medications.

E-mail jwheeler@wfaa.com

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