As we move out of 2015 and into 2016 with a strong wave of hostility rising throughout the country about high drug prices, what I’m about to report may seem incongruous. Fewer Americans seem to be buying lower cost medications from other countries. For the past few years, largely based on data from the CDC in 2013, I’ve published the number five million as the approximate number of Americans who, due to high drug prices, import medication annually for personal use. But a newer CDC report published in 2015 (that I recently came across) puts that number closer to four million, a 20% decrease.
If drug prices are going up, and Americans are fed up with prescription costs, wouldn’t you expect more people to be buying lower cost medications from outside the country? With fewer Americans buying medication internationally, potentially one million, how many of them are simply not taking prescribed medication? Are our most trusted authorities scaring Americans away from obtaining lower cost medications from other countries, or has affordable access improved over the past few years?
Tagged with: Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies, CDC, Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies, Drug Importation, Drug Prices, FDA, National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, Online Pharmacies, Partnership for Safe Medicines, Patent Cliff, Seroquel, United States
Americans who take Celebrex to fight arthritis may be pleased to know that a generic version has been approved by the FDA. The New York Times’ coverage reports, in a somewhat predictive fashion, that generic drugs “can cost 30 to 80 percent less than the branded products.” While that’s true, don’t expect generic Celebrex to be so cheap. What’s most likely is that its price will initially be around 80%, and then creep downwards.
Millions of Americans have seen this pricing trend over the past few years, as many popular medications have recently gone generic. A patent’s expiry does not necessarily mean cheaper drugs, at least immediately. That’s because the FDA grants marketing exclusivity for a generic to a single drug company for six months, so only two drug companies – the brand name manufacturer and the first generic manufacturer – are competing. As more drug companies enter the market the price will eventually cost a fraction of the brand name counterpart. But that first generic to market will usually only be about 20% cheaper than the brand.
When atorvastatin (generic Lipitor) first came out you could actually save a lot of money by purchasing the brand from an international online pharmacy instead of the generic from a U.S. pharmacy. Now, with many companies manufacturing atorvastatin, generic Lipitor in the U.S. can be found for about $15 per month if you use a discount card. International online pharmacies that once had a leg up on U.S. pharmacies lose big once competition drives U.S. generic drug prices down.
A perfect example is the popular antidepressant Cymbalta. Currently, the cash price of a 90 day supply of duloxetine (generic Cymbalta, 60 mg) is around $250 – and that’s after using a discount card at the pharmacy. A 90 day supply of brand name Cymbalta is only $90 when ordered from an international online pharmacy – a 64% discount!
We expect this pricing pattern for Abilify, Gleevec, Crestor, and many other drugs coming off patent down the pipeline. In the initial phase of a new generic’s release, the brand version from an international online pharmacy will probably be much cheaper, but eventually your neighborhood pharmacy will be your best bet. So if you take Celebrex expect to celebrate a low cost U.S. generic in early 2015!
Tagged with: Atorvastatin, Celebrex, Cymbalta, Patent Cliff
Besides the obvious – access to cheap generic alternatives for once exorbitantly priced prescriptions – this year’s patent expirations on blockbuster brand-name drugs means even more good news for American consumers. A U.S. News and World Report article suggests the Patent Cliff as one of the reasons for the forecasted Medicare savings. Access to low-cost generics on popular drugs like Lipitor cuts spending significantly for plan sponsors, and U.S. officials have announced that enrollees paying for prescription drugs through Medicare Part D will not see an increase in premiums, in contrast with prior years. Rather, the yearly fees will decrease slightly – from an average of $30.76 in 2011 to $30.00 in 2012. All current plan premiums can be found on MedicareDrugPlans.com – Compare Costs and Features.
Moreover, plan enrollees are now receiving a 50% discount on brand name drugs purchased through the coverage gap. However, brand name drug prices continue to increase, which means the discount’s importance is less pronounced. (more…)
Tagged with: brand name drugs, compare costs, consumers, customer service, discount, generics, Medicare Drug Plans, Part D, Patent Cliff, U.S. News and World Report, United States