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Drugs & Medical Devices

Congress seeks explanation for generic drug price spike

— November 3, 2014

Last month, members of the US Congress sent letters to 14 generic drug manufacturers, demanding explanation for the recent, dramatic spike in the price of some 20 generic drugs.  The Generic Pharmaceutical Association, a trade group representing the generic pharmaceutical industry, blames the increase on simple market forces, but many are suspicious of that response.

According to a report published by a Chicago CBS affiliate, prices for a generic blood pressure drug called Simvastatin have tripled as late, from $45 to $140 monthly.  The pharmacy manager at Well Future Pharmacy explained in an interview with CBS that a generic topical ointment for psoriasis and eczema went from $10 per tube to $300 – overnight.

Sadly, that same pharmacy manager noted options for low-income families are limited: “If the price goes up, consumers really have no option but either to take the medicine or not take it.”

Two members of the House Oversight Committee responsible for the generic drug industry cite these figures in the above-mentioned letters to manufacturers:

  • Albuterol Sulfate, used to treat asthma and other lung conditions, increased 4,014% for a bottle of 100 2 mg tablets.
  • Doxycycline Hyclate, an antibiotic used to treat a variety of infections, increased 8,281% for a bottle of 500 100 mg tablets.
  • Glycopyrrolate, used to prevent irregular heartbeats during surgery, increased 2,728% for a box of 10 0.2 mg/mL, 20 mL vials.

Here is a table outlining price increases for ten generic drugs from that congressional committee.  Year-to-year price increases range from 388% to over 8,000%.

Generic drugs being introduced as a cheap alternative to brand name pharmaceuticals, they have come to play a vital role in our nation’s healthcare system.  But with price spikes as those described above, copay rates become prohibitive factors in the receipt of proper care.

The observed recent price increases likely result from myriad factors, ranging from packaging costs to the cost of adhering to new regulations.  I hope that price gouging has not also played a role in the dramatic spike in price for generic drugs, but as this story unfolds, we at Legal Reader will continue to report.

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