What makes the price of a life-saving allergy medicine increase from $50 to $317?!

Last month, Mylan increased the price of the EpiPen for the 17th time in the past 9 years. EpiPen is a life-saving treatment for millions who have allergic reactions. This drug price hike has triggered a public outcry. In France, the price for this product is $85, and it’s even cheaper in Canada at $56.

Heather Bresch, the CEO of Mylan, faced tough questions in Congress this week because of her company’s controversial price hike for EpiPen. In recent years this drug has had a boost from 2 hundred million dollars to 1 billion dollars in annual sales. Her salary also rose 672% ($2.45 million dollars to $18.9 million dollars) along with the increase of drug prices. 

Prescription drug prices in the U.S. have been the highest in the world; a survey from Reuters shows that prices for the world’s top 20 best-selling drugs are three times higher than that of the U.K, six times higher than that of Brazil’s, and 16 times higher than that of the lowest-priced country, India. According to my Taiwanese friend, an injector before bedtime for diabetes patients costs $160 in the states, but only $14~$15 in Taiwan.

What’s worse is that the drug price is still soaring! Over the past five years, prices for the top 10 best-selling drugs have increased by 126%, which is exponentially higher than the inflation rate. Overall cost for drugs rose more than outpatient and hospitalization, according to an analysis from the National Institute of Health.


How Do You Save Money When Drug Prices Are So High? 

Costco has the best deal for you

For a same generic drug, the prices are: $18 at Costco, $66 at Target, more than $100 at Walgreens, and more than $200 at Rite Aid and CVS.

Generic Drugs vs. Preferred Drugs

Brand-name drugs are also known as preferred drugs. A brand-name drug is originally developed by a pharmaceutical company. It is under patent protection approved by the FDA. Once the patent life expires on a brand-name drug product, it is eligible to be made into a “generic drug.” Generic drugs must have exactly the same active ingredients, strength, dosage form, and route of administration as the brand name product.

Therefore, if you see an expensive preferred drug on your prescription, try asking if there is a generic drug alternative. Generic drugs are usually 80%~85% cheaper than preferred drugs.

When Selecting Health Plans, Deductible is What Matters…

Each insurance company has a different drug list and health plan. For example, Silver 94 covers up to a 30-day supply for a $3 copayment.  Bronze does not cover any supply until the deductible is met.

Premiums are usually lower for high deductible plans. But if you have a long term need for drugs and medication, discuss with a professional insurance agent so that they can let you know what your options are and help you select the best plan!