Generic Drug Pricing for Heart Failure Meds Varies Greatly

Wide variation in prices of generic heart failure meds
Wide variation in prices of generic heart failure meds

(HealthDay News) — Cash prices of generic medicines to treat heart failure vary so widely that some patients may not be able to afford to fill all of their prescriptions, according to a research letter published online Nov. 15 in JAMA Internal Medicine. The research was published to coincide with the annual meeting of the American Heart Association, held from Nov. 12 to 16 in New Orleans.

In a telephone survey, the researchers gathered drug prices from 175 pharmacies in eastern Missouri and neighboring Illinois. The median income in the study areas was $53,000 a year. The study focused on digoxin, lisinopril, and carvedilol.

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Digoxin was consistently the most expensive, with median prices of $40 and $115 for 30- and 90-day supplies, respectively, regardless of the dosage. Median prices for high-dose versions of lisinopril and carvedilol were about the same: around $14 for a 30-day supply. For all three drugs, the median price for a month's supply was nearly $68 for low-dose versions and $71 for high-dose versions. The cost for all three drugs went as high as $257 for the lower doses and nearly $400 for the higher doses for a month's supply. Only one in three major chains had consistent pricing across all its retail stores.

The wide range of prices was unrelated to the drug dose or duration of therapy, the area where the pharmacy does business, whether it was a chain or independent pharmacy, or median income in pharmacy ZIP codes, the researchers noted. "There may be different reasons for different pricing practices, but this clearly needs more attention because this is going to have a direct effect on patients," lead author Paul Hauptman, M.D., professor of medicine and assistant dean at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine, told HealthDay.

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