Generic drug makers facing probe over price collusion

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Generic drug makers facing probe over price collusion
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Remember the outrage over the price fixing of Daraprim and the more recent scandal over the skyrocketing prices associated with the EpiPen?

Well, the pharmaceutical industry may have a new and unlikely villain in its midst—generic drug prices!

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Department of Justice asks if executives plotted to raise generic Rx prices

Nearly a dozen drug makers have been subpoenaed by the Department of Justice for their role in what is believed to be a pervasive effort to raise the prices of generic drugs, Bloomberg reports citing people familiar with the investigation.

The much-vilified Mylan (maker of the EpiPen) is among the companies being probed by the DOJ. Others include Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., Actavis, Lannett Co., Impax Laboratories Inc., Covis Pharma Holdings Sarl, Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., Mayne Pharma Group Ltd., Endo International Plc’s subsidiary Par Pharmaceutical Holdings and Taro Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.

‘Mylan is and has always been committed to cooperating with the Antitrust Division’s investigation,’ Investor’s Business Daily reports the company said in an email statement. ‘To date, we know of no evidence that Mylan participated in price fixing.’

Which drugs are involved here?

So far, only three medications have come to light as being involved in this probe.

Mylan, Mayne and Par have disclosed they’ve been questioned by the DOJ about doxycycline, a common antibiotic.

Impax, Lannett and Par, meanwhile, admits being queried about digoxin—a drug that treats congestive heart failure.

In addition, Impax is being probed about calcipotriene, a topical solution used for plaque psoriasis.

When you look at the price trajectory of digoxin, Bloomberg notes that Lannett was the first to raise list price on the generic drug from 17 cents a pill to $1.185 a pill in October 2013.

Less than a week later, Impax did the same—raising the price from 14 cents to $1.185. Four months later, Par got in on the action with its own generic version of digoxin priced at…you guessed it: $1.185 a pill! Ditto for Sun Pharma, which followed Par’s introduction into the market two months later.

Charges are likely to be filed before the end of the year, according to Bloomberg.

What can you do hold down costs of generic prescriptions?

Go north for cheaper prices

For years, people who lived along the Canadian border have looked to our neighbor to the north for prescription savings. Canada has been a viable alternative for residents from Washington State to Maine. They simply go across the border and fill their scrips for a fraction of the cost for an identical medication.

If you don’t live in a border state, there are legitimate Canadian pharmacies online where you can fill a scrip. From time to time, our federal government will seize a shipment as a show of force. But it is a rare thing and the pharmacy will usually replace it for you at their cost.

Look at the warehouse clubs — even if you’re a non-member

The beauty of Costco is you don’t need to be a member to use their pharmacy. Simply show up and explain you want a prescription filled. Many Costcos have a separate entrance for their pharmacies to accommodate walk-in non-members.

A recent report from The Florida Sun Sentinel found the price of a prescription can vary by as much as $170 for a 30-day supply, but the clear winner was Costco. A reporter named Doreen Christensen called around to price a Lexapro prescription at a variety of retailers. Here’s what she found: ‘Costco $6.99; CVS $114.99; Publix $118; Sam’s Club $83; Target $147.99; Walgreens $116.99; Walmart  $115.88 and Winn-Dixie $179.99.’

Ask for a ‘biosimilar’

The Wall Street Journal recently wrote about a move in the U.S. to lower drug prices through something called ‘biosimilars.’ Simply put, that’s a drug that’s more affordable than the dominant player in the market and it’s chemically exact in its structure as the industry leader. These things will be a very important part of the future of medicine, even though many traditionalists are nervous or opposed to biosimilars.

If you are a doctor, a lot of the meds you’re writing now are things that patients won’t be able to afford. And they may die for lack of medication. So why not write a scrip for a biosimilar that costs one-twentieth to develop and could be a completely life-saving event?

As a patient, the next time you’re with a doctor, if there is a medicine you are prescribed that you can not afford, ask for a biosimilar!

Here’s what to watch out for if you’re looking at online pharmacies…

Be very careful of online pharmacies. After looking at more than 11,000 websites selling prescription medications online, a new study found approximately half of all of medicines sold online are fake or counterfeit.

But the meds aren’t merely bogus with little to no active ingredients present; they can be downright detrimental to the health of anyone who takes them because of a wide range of toxins.

Some online medications have been found to include deadly substances like floor wax, mercury, concrete, chalk, boric acid, road tar, paint or anti-freeze.

Steer clear of the dangerous stuff

If you’re concerned about the safety of meds from your online seller, heed the following advice:

  • Avoid websites that don’t require you to have a prescription.
  • Be very wary if they’ll sell you a prescription in exchange for completing an online questionnaire.
  • Ridiculously low prices are a clue that something isn’t right.
  • Ask if you can get in touch with a licensed pharmacist who works with the online seller. If you can’t, that’s a bad sign.
  • Be sure wherever you’re buying from has a physical street address.
  • Don’t accept any shipments from other countries.
  • Check that a seller is verified by the National Association of State Boards of Pharmacy (NABP).
  • Look for sites ending in .pharmacy as evidence of NABP verification.
  • Check for VIPPS (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites) certification, which indicates the seller has passed rigorous vetting by the NABP.

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