Monday, July 25, 2011

Good news for patients

There occasionally actually is good news for patients. This time its financial. Many brand name drugs will have their patents expire in 2011 and 2012. In the Boston Globe today was an article "Drug Prices Will Fall Sharply As Patents Expire" (A poor title that I read first as 'patients expire'.)

The article mostly talks about Lipitor, Protonix, Plavix and other medications I don't take the but the point is there. All these expensive drugs that came out in the early 1990s or so, now will lose their patent protection and generics will take over.

I get my Femara by mail order - simply because I can't afford it at the local pharmacy. It cost me over $100 for a copy for a single month (OUCH!) so I switched to my insurance mail order and it cost me $70 for a three month supply. Then my last refill was $10 for a three month because it was for the generic. I found the retail price of Femara on line as: $386.28 - 30 day, $763.53 - 60 day, and $1,141.89 - 90 day. Basically that's more than $10 per pill... And if you get it in the retail packaging it has a nice little designer bottle to go with its designer beige/yellow colored pills. I prefer the white mail order prescription bottle myself filled with generic tablets.

My husband takes Concerta for his ADD and he recently switched to a generic as well. The cost savings haven't been as significant but I am happy to see any cost reduction.

The article does point out that: "When a drug loses patent protection, often only one generic version is on sale for the first six months, so the price falls a bit initially. Then, several other generic makers jump in, driving prices down dramatically. So in six months, maybe costs will be better.

It then adds: "The flood of generics will continue for the next decade or so, as about 120 brand-name prescription drugs lose market exclusivity, according to Medco Health Solutions Inc., a prescription benefit manager."

I would have thought the pharmaceutical manufacturers would be worried but I guess not.
"“A blockbuster drug that goes off patent will lose 90 percent of its revenue within 24 months. I’ve seen it happen in 12 months,’’ says Ben Weintraub, a research director at Wolters Kluwer Pharma Solutions.

Twenty drug approvals in the United States this year, and others in the next few years, will help replace the revenue.

I realize that most generics have the same effects for most people but are not equal. Sometimes a generic doesn't work as well for some people and they need to go back on the brand name. But still many people will see savings.

So we should enjoy our lowered costs while we can, before our doctors switch us to new medications that are 'better' and protected under patents.

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