Local expert talks drug costs, recent spikes

Local News
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BUFFALO, N.Y.(WIVB)– Major pharmaceutical companies often pride themselves on developing new drugs, but the prices of pre-existing medications are also climbing.

Like the 62-year-old anti-parasitic drug called Pyrimethamine, or Daraprim. It was recently raised a significant amount by the CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, Martin Shkreli.

“They raised the price by 5,500 percent. In other words from $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill,” said Dr. John Crane, a professor of medicine at UB.

Daraprim, which treats infections for people with HIV and AIDS isn’t commonly used, but many drug giants are also raising the cost of heavily used drugs, like ear drops.

Over the last two and a half years, Valeant Pharmaceuticals has raised the price for a certain type of ear drop by 2,288%.

Drugs used heavily in Erie County are also affected.

Narcan, commonly used to treat a heroin overdose, was about $1 per dose 10 years ago.

Now, a dose costs $40.

And Doxylin, a pill used to treat infections, like Chlamydia, was about .25 cents per pill. Now, it’s $5, and that’s down from what it was a few years ago.

At one point, Dr. Crane said it reached $10 per dose.

So why do companies do it?

Dr. Crane said it’s because they can.

While many companies claim higher prices are to offset new drug research, most spent little on research and development last year.

“One of things we have on our side this time is the health insurance companies are on the same side as the patients now,” Dr. Crane told News 4.

Sky high prices for generics are expensive for them too, and sometimes insurance companies just won’t cover them, which leads to excessive out-of-pocket costs for patients, Crane said.

He told News 4 the drastic price hike began about five years ago, and if it continues, he anticipates people will look elsewhere for treatment.

“Many of these drugs are much less expensive in Canada, than they are here in the U.S. So here in the Buffalo that’s one option, if you have relatives or a doctor friend in Canada you could go there,” he said.

Dr. Crane hopes insurance companies and the public puts presser on Congress to change the way the FTC deals with drug companies.

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