UF Study: As competition goes down, generic drug prices rise

"Market consolidation" could be to blame
Posted at 6:14 PM, Jul 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-05 18:14:30-04

A new University of Florida study confirms what many people have learned the hard way: drug prices are on the rise, including the price of generics.

More than 4 in 5 prescriptions filled in the U.S. are for generic drugs, and a research team at USF's College of Pharmacy says a lack of competition among drug manufacturers is to blame for the rise in cost.

“The U.S. health care system has recently witnessed a relatively new phenomenon where prices for some older generic drugs have increased hundreds — even thousands — of percentage points in a short time span,” said Chintan Dave, Pharm.D., the lead author of the study and a graduate student in the UF College of Pharmacy’s department of pharmaceutical outcomes and policy. 

“There is a lot of speculation that these increases are due to drug shortages or industry consolidation, but without looking through a lens of scientific rigor, you cannot make these assumptions," adds Dr. Dave.

The study reviewed drug prices between 2008 and 2013, analyzing over a billion drug claims, and found an important trend:

  • When there was a high amount of competition, prices went down about 32%
  • When there was little to no competition, prices up up about 47%

A local independent pharmacist tells ABC Action News that he's noticed an even more dramatic increase in just the past year.

"Some generic manufacturers are realizing they can get a monopoly again on a generic product; pretty much buy out the competition or buy out the resources to make the drug," says Dan Fucarino of the Carrollwood Pharmacy on N. Dale Mabry in Tampa. "When you do that you're like a brand name manufacturer again, so you can charge whatever you want."

Fucarino says he's recently had to warn more and more customers of his, before filling the prescription, of the sudden price spike, so they don't get sticker shock at the register.

"When they were paying $2 and now they've got to pay $200 they're not going to want to do," says Fucarino.

When the price spikes, Fucarino says insurance companies will either raise the co-pay cost, or not cover the drug at all. He's been finding himself trying to help customers, with the help of their doctors, find an alternative drug, if there is one.

Fucarino says he understands drug companies are for-profit companies that need to make money, but adds "I feel the idea has to be what's best for the majority of patients," he says.