Prescription drug prices on the rise

Doctors say generic drugs an alternative to expensive brand-names

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Prescription drug prices are taking off again as other health care costs are flat or falling.

Drug prices have reignited in the last four years, returning to growth rates of a decade ago.

Pharmacists say they're seeing a big difference in cost.

"Usually this time of year there is a general price increase in the first of the year, but seems like prices are taking that higher jump than normal this time around," said Gary Roberts, of Roberts' South Bank Pharmacy.

In 2012, prescription drug prices rose 3.6 percent, twice the 1.7 percent inflation rate.

What's driving drug costs up? Brand-name drugs paid for by insurance and often heavily advertised.

One example is Doxycycline. The drug has gone up about 75 times as much just within a few months.

There are three top selling drugs that have increased in price:

  • Nexium, a heartburn drug, had a 7.8 percent price hike to a $262 average prescription.
  • Abilify, for bipolar disorder, increased 10.4 percent to $642 per prescription.
  • Crestor, a cholesterol-lowering drug, went up 9.7 percent to $193 per prescription.

In the case of Medicaid, there is no co-pay, so people who have that are protected for the most part from rising costs unless changes are made to the preferred drug list.

"If a drug's cost went way out of hand, they could theoretically take it off the list and, you know, make someone have to go to a different drug," Roberts said.

Medicare users do have a co-pay.

"After a certain amount of spend during the year, they have to pay for their out-of-pocket increases until it caps," Roberts said.

"That's money coming out of your food from regular living expenses," said Lois Jackson, a Medicare user.

"I get Medicaid, so I won't have to pay but like $5 more," Lelia Vann said.

Doctors say people can use generic drugs as an alternative. They are more affordable than the brand name version.