Isn’t it amazing how one antibiotic shortage and subsequent price increase can summarize the problems of an entire industry? Recent issues with the availability of doxycycline have resulted in a shortage and massive price increase for that medication.
Drug prices have always been a bit of a mystery for consumers. And the recent spike in the cost of the antibiotic doxycycline have only further confused the average consumer.
Add in the fact that most patients pay for prescription medications using some sort of complicated third party insurance and you have a recipe for further confusion. Patients simply don’t understand drug prices.
Recently the antibiotic doxycycline became more difficult to obtain. The result was a shortage and a massive increase in cost. Patients who were able to buy this medication for less than $10 a few months ago may now find that the exact same medication will cost them well over $100.
That quick availability status change and subsequent price increase understandably confuses and concerns the average consumer. Patients don’t understand how those kinds of drug price increases could happen in a relatively short period of time. Even worse, they may assume that pharmacies are guilty of price gouging.
The reality is that prescription drug prices are a function of a complicated relationship between supply, demand, and other forces including third party insurance plans and company pricing policies. For the average consumer, the best advice is to trust but verify.
Consumers need to realize that drug shortages are a reality that is all too common in modern medicine. They also need to realize that shortages can lead to back-orders or significant increases in drug prices if the medication in question is still available.
But patients also need to understand that drug prices are complicated and constantly changing. We always recommend price matching and using other means of discounts such as rebate cards or discount cards available from your doctor or pharmacy.
What consumers need to realize is that pharmacies aren’t trying to pull a fast one on them when they charge more for a medication. That price is a reflection of what the medication costs the pharmacy and how much is covered by your insurance.
Doxycycline is a recent and extreme example of just how quickly a medication can increase in cost. But it does highlight industry-wide questions related to price transparency and consumer confusion.
Consumers need to arm themselves with as much information as possible. My advice to patients? Ask for a price quote and see if your pharmacy, like many, will price-match. Look for other discounts as a means to lower costs. And ask your pharmacist about lower cost alternative therapies.
Contrary to popular belief, pharmacists are actually interested in saving patients money. We are a resource for consumers to use if they are confused about drug prices and availability.
When in doubt, just ask. We’ll tell you all about the latest availability and pricing issues with doxycycline or any other medication. Just keep one thing in mind- our answers might not be what you want to hear!
The Redheaded Pharmacist