The price of a painkiller has been increased to almost $3000 a bottle by an Irish drugmaker. The company had acquired the drug in late 2013 and compared to its price then, it is 22 times more expensive now.
And adding to this astronomic price increase for Horizon Pharma’s Vimovo drug is the fact that it just costs $36 for the purchase of two of the most primary ingredients of the drug.
Even though only a fraction of the price for Vimovo is paid for by patients typically, the incident highlights what is described by critics as a murky and wasteful system which would ultimately lead to larger health costs for entire populations.
The $2,979 wholesale price tag is not reflective of “the cost to patients or the cost to the system”, said a spokesman for Dublin-based Horizon. Those patients who are commercially-insured can access the medicine “at an affordable price” because of the programs of the company, it said. this irrespective of whether the insurance of the patient covers the cost or not. According to the calculation by the company, only about $10 is paid from the pockets by almost 98% of all insured patients for Vimovo.
In recent years, a number of scandals has put the drug industry under severe criticism and political sand social scanner. For example, the astronomical hike in price for the AIDS drug by “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli and that of life saving allergy treatment EpiPen by Mylan, have been highly criticized.
Naproxen, a drug that is available in the market under the brand name Aleve, and esomeprazole, which is a drug that is used for lowering of lowers the risk of stomach problems caused by pain relievers, were combined to create Vimovo and that has made this drug especially controversial. Those two main ingredients are available at very cheap rates in the open market.
However, a simple combination of the two drugs will not create Vimovo as there is a special formula for creation, Horizon said.
For Vimovo, no clinically equivalent, over the counter FDA approved generic drug is available, said a Horizon spokesman.
Despite this, the company issued a warning for its investors in an SEC filing in November where it said that the “higher cost” of Vimovo in comparison to generic or branded forms that the active ingredients are available in “may limit adoption by physicians, patients and healthcare payers.” The company said “we have faced challenges due to pharmacists increasingly switching a patient’s intended prescription” from Vimovo to a generic or over-the-counter brand of its active ingredient.
The company however has attempted to lower the cost of the drug through agreement with pharmacy benefit managers for a discount to try and counter the pricing concerns.
Vimovo has bene currently placed in the non-preferred list of Express Scripts, said an Express Scripts spokeswoman. “This simply means it is not excluded from coverage, but also is not preferred,” she said.
“There is no transparency. It’s a big black box,” said Annabel Samimy, an analyst at Stifel Financial who covers Horizon.
“What you see between the gross price and net price is a big bubble — and we don’t know where the savings are passed on to,” Samimy said. “You need to understand who’s in the middle between the manufacturers and the patient.”
(Adapted from Money.cnn.com)v