Prescription drug costs are soaring, study finds

By Lauren Lowrey - bio | email

Posted by Kate Oatis - email 

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Prescription drug costs are soaring, specifically among brand-name medications.

A new report by the Government Accountability Office shows from 2000 to 2008, 416 brand-name drugs saw price increases between 100 percent and 2,000 percent.

Blame it on international policy, says Dr. Varun Vaidya, a University of Toledo assistant professor of Pharmaco-Economics. "Internationally, except for the U.S., [every country] has some form of price regulation mechanism, so they cannot set their prices. So, the U.S. is the only market where they (drug companies) are going to get money back on their investments."

Without a price ceiling in the U.S., drug companies can charge whatever they want while they have the patent on an active ingredient. Once the patent is up, generics flood the market and the drug company makes no more money.

For example, Sumatriptan Succinate is the generic of the well-known migraine medicine Imitrex that lost its patent at the end of 2009. In the next two months, the patents for Flomax, Cozaar, and Ambien CR will all expire, to the delight of those who need these drugs.

But if you take a drug with a patent that is far from expiring, it's time to have a candid conversation with your doctor, says Vaidya. "Talk to your doctors or your physicians, and, most importantly, talk to your pharmacist because they know a lot about your drugs... . Also if there's a certain brand name drug, the pharmacist can suggest a generic."

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