Chances are you're forking out a lot more money on prescription drugs than you were just a year ago.
Many people have seen their monthly prescription costs double or triple, and wonder how much more they can afford.
Melissa Wilfong never thought much about her prescription prices. "Under my old health plan, it was a $35 a month co-pay."
But then her pharmacist recently handed her some shocking news about a prescription her husband needs.
"The cost is now $338 a month," she said.
Melissa doesn't know what to do, with the new cost 10 times what she paid a year ago.
"I'm gonna just try to find alternatives, see if there's anything the doctors can do to help out," she said.
Why the Price Hikes?
Pharmacist Dave Yost says it pains him to hear his customers telling him things like this.
He says for the past 10 years, generics were the affordable solution. But lately, he says, "now generics are as unaffordable as brands sometimes."
He and other experts in the industry blame drug company consolidation.
"Some of our generic manufactures are shutting down production," Yost explained, "which reduces the inventory so the price skyrockets."
It reached crisis mode a few months ago, when Turing Pharmaceuticals bought anti infection drug Daraprim, then raised the price a whopping 5,000% (the company has since rescinded the price hike).
That prompted a US Senate investigation, with Ohio US Senator Sherrod Brown saying this is happening over and over.
"We've seen drug companies purchase the rights to a drug that's been on the market, that's reasonably priced, and jack the price up," Brown said.
Among the biggest price shocks this year, according to the nonprofit advocacy group RxRights.org, are for families who need:
- ADHD drugs.
- Insulin for diabetes.
- Cholesterol lowering medications.
What You Can Do
So what can you do if the price of something you've been taking for years has soared in price?
There's no one simple solution. But there are several things you can do to bring those costs down.
Pharmacist Yost shared with us 3 ways to cut those costs.
- 1. Ask your what other medicines might do the same thing, then ask your doctor if that might work for you.
- 2. Ask your pharmacist about discount programs, such as coupons, cheaper 90 day supplies and even free pill programs from manufacturers for lower income people.
- 3: Compare pharmacies at websites like GoodRx.com, or by phone.
We checked prices for a 30 day supply of the cholesterol lowering drug Lipitor, or its generic.
We were quoted:
- $41 at CVS
- $31 at Walgreens.
- $13 at Walmart.
- $12 at Kmart.
Melissa doesn't know how she can pay $300 a month for one medicine.
"It's crazy. It's your health," she said. "So you want to make sure you take care of yourself. But if you can't afford drugs, I can see where people would do without, rather than paying for the cost."
One last tip from pharmacist Dave Yost: He says strike up a conversation with your local pharmacist.
If you are a loyal customer, they can tell you what other people are getting that medicine for, and show you how you can get that lower price too.
That way you don't waste your money.
Don't Waste Your Money is a registered trademark of the EW Scripps Co.
Follow John on Twitter (@JohnMatarese )