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Americans Paying More Than Ever for Generic Drugs

01/29/2015
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Generic-drug costs are soaring. In 2014, so much inflation took place it prompted members of the Senate to push for the legalization of drug imports from Canada, as patients south of the border struggle to pay for their pills.

According to reports, half of all generic drugs have experienced cost spikes. Of those, an approximate 10 percent doubled in price. Worse, a hormone for thyroid-replacement and three other pills – albuterol (asthma), digoxin (heart) and doxycycline (antibiotic) rose a whopping 500 percent.

“Generics have played an important role in making medicine affordable for millions of people,” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent, told The New York Times. “I worry that we’re seeing the end of that now.”

Generic drug

The pattern in the United States is changing. The way it worked in the past was pharmaceutical companies would produce and market a brand-name drug and obtain a patent on it. The drug remained a brand until the patent expired and another pharmaceutical company made a generic version. The result: a sharp decrease in price.

“The cost of many generic medications has increased so much over the past year that prices for many common generic drugs in the United States have surpassed those of their brand-name equivalents in other developed countries,” The New York Times reported.

Pharmacychecker.com confirms the dramatic price gaps. For example, budesonide, a generic drug used to combat lung ailments, costs $1,625 in the United States and $155.70 in Canada – a more than 90-percent savings that, during the course of a year, puts more than $5,800 back into the consumer’s pocket.

The next-biggest price gap comes with the anti-depression medicine clomipramine, which goes for $900 here and $45.90 there, representing a savings of $3,416.40.

The list goes on.

“The economy has stabilized but it’s really hard for the middle class to get by, and this is a glaring example of where we are so out of line with other countries,” Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, told The New York Times. “One solution is to let some competition in from over the border.”

But “big pharma” opposes such competition and has a lot of lobbying might.

The Generic Pharmaceutical Association paints a rosier picture than Pharmacychecker.com and says generics saved consumers $239 billion in 2013.

“Rising health care costs have long been considered a significant threat to the American economy, but…the fastest-growing part of the federal budget – spending on health care programs – has slowed sharply,” the GPhA says in a report titled “Generic Drug Savings in the U.S.” “Generic medicines remain a key part of this slow-down in health care spending.”

While the politicians and the pharmaceutical industry come to terms with generic-drug costs and the importation law, consumers can find a bit of relief at GoodRx.com, which says it can save you up to 80 percent on your prescriptions.

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