Rx drug prices rising as more generic brands become available

Published On: Feb 14 2013 05:15:40 PM CST   Updated On: Feb 14 2013 06:19:26 PM CST

The cost of prescription drugs has been on the rise in recent years.

Prices rose 3.6 percent in 2012.

A rise in costs for prescription drugs isn’t a good thing for anyone, especially seniors.

In his semi-retirement, Pat Killeen of La Crosse said his income isn't exactly what it used to be.

“I actually have a couple of pensions from previous employers, but they're fixed,” said Killeen.

As president of the Wisconsin AARP, he and many other members aren't too happy when prescription drug prices rise.

“Most seniors are on limited and fixed incomes, so any component that goes up, whether it’s rent, taxes, food prices, (or) drugs, (it) impacts them, and also at an older age you take more drugs,” said Killeen. “It's a larger part of your expenditures.”

In 2012 drug prices rose more twice the rate of inflation.

The top three drugs, Nexium, Abilify and Crestor, saw at least a 7.8 percent price hike.

“(With) the large number of generics that are available in the market and with the less branded products being available to consumers, drug companies need to meet the expectations of Wall Street,” said Michael Meyers, of Gundersen Lutheran.

Meyers said Gundersen has seen an increase in the use of generic brands.

The hospital's pharmacies fill about 5,500 prescriptions each day. About 75-80 percent of those are generic.

Meyers said with virtually no difference between generic and brand names, it could mean more bang for your buck.

“The generics, if available, work the same as branded products, and in fact in some cases because of their lower costs, they help drive compliance to improve, and they're more affordable,” said Meyers.

And that's good news for Killeen.

“I do believe every one of the prescription drugs I'm on is a generic,” said Killeen.

Meyers said major drug companies use some of the money they get for research into diseases that don't have drug treatments yet.

He said in the future, he does see the use of generic medication increasing, but brand names will still exist for the diseases that are very hard to treat.

Some drugs, including the top three drugs, Nexium, Abilify, and Crestor, do not have generic brands.

Health officials suggest checking with your physician to see if your prescription comes in a generic form or if there is an alternative available that would be more cost-effective, but would still provide the same medical effects.