Generic heart failure drug prices vary wildly, causing financial stress for some patients
Researchers surveyed drug prices for uninsured patients in 175 St. Louis-area pharmacies.
The three generics — digoxin, lisinopril and carvedilol — are often prescribed for heart failure. Heart failure is caused by a weakened heart: it cannot pump enough blood to satisfy the cells' need for blood and oxygen.
“The idea for the study originated with one of our patients, a 25-year-old man with heart failure, who called the office and said he could not afford to fill a prescription for digoxin,” Saint Louis University School of Medicine professor, cardiologist and study senior author Dr. Paul Hauptman said. “When I found out that a month’s supply was going to cost him $100, I couldn’t believe it. Like me, I think a lot of doctors assume that if you’re writing a prescription for a generic drug that it will be affordable — and that’s not necessarily the case.”
Heart failure patients are often prescribed several medications to treat the condition. The study found that there were no specific circumstances, such as type of pharmacy or income level of the pharmacy's zip code, that would explain the wide range of prices.
“It’s not reasonable to expect patients who are sick and of limited financial means to call or visit half a dozen pharmacies to get the best price,” Hauptman said. “What is more likely to happen is that patients visit a pharmacy and find out that the drug is too expensive, so they don’t fill the prescription and therefore do not garner benefit from guideline-directed medical therapy.”