Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Why Are My Prescriptions So Expensive?

Soaring prescription prices… Why is this?

No one likes spending a lot of money on prescriptions. It seems like when something is really neededto treat a condition you have, you should not be prevented from taking thatmedication due to inability to afford it. At the same time, quite often it is the lure of those very same highprofits that encourage pharmaceutical companies to produce many of the amazing,and quite often, life-saving drugs that we all depend on. Eliminating the reward would, in my opinion,lead us to where fewer and fewer new drugs would be developed.

There is one drug, however, that has been around for years…indeed thousands of years. It is called colchicine. It is a powerful anti-inflammatory medication that is most often used in the treatment of gout. Gout is a condition related to anincrease in uric acid in the body. This can lead to severe pain and inflammation in the joints. Quite often, the joints of the foot are involved. A patient with gout will typically come to my office stating that the pain, redness, and swelling in their foot came on quite suddenly and is excruciating. Colchicine treats acute gout very effectively, relieving symptoms quite often in a matter of hours. So, you can imagine the surprise of patients(and doctors) when it was discovered that generic colchicine was no longer available! Instead, the drug wasavailable only in the form of a non-generic called Colcrys. Same drug. Same benefits. Not the same price. How much has the price gone up? According to as CBS Evening Newsreport, a 23 day supply has gone from $6.72 up to $185.53! Why is this happening? Watch this news report from CBS Evening newsthat aired last night:


To make a long story short, there are many drugs which pre-date the FDA – one of which is colchicine. The FDA was concerned because there was a lack of modern research on the medication. Now, no drug company will ever do research on inexpensive generic drugs. To get around this, the FDA has taken the generic version of the medication off the market to allow URL Pharma, the company that makes Colcrys, to help recoup money it had spent to study the drug. Now, my patients spend A LOT more on their prescription for colchicine. Is this right? It may not be as clear cut as it would seem. As a result of the studies done by URLPharma, it was determined that a lower dosing of colchicine would be just aseffective as the traditional dosing, making it safer to use. So, you tell me: If it were you paying out of your pocket for this medication, would that information be worth the extra $$$ knowing know that the medication was safer for you to take? As is the case with many medical questions, the answers can be hard to come by.


  1. All I can say is that they (URL) are crooks for charging this much extra for essentially researching an age old drug with thousand of case studies to review. No (or very little) primary research I'll bet.

    I will be sticking to Indomethacin for now on.

  2. As it turns out, I usually will prescibe indomthacine first when treating gout. However, there are those who cannot, for a variety of reasons, take indomethacine. So that leaves colchicine for acute gout. I will say, however that the lower doses now recommended are really quite helpful, since colchicine has the unwanted tendency to cause nausea and vomitting when used!

    Your indignation at the higher cost is understood... It could be solved if the government funded such research studies; however, I don't foresee that happening anytime soon.