MIAMI VALLEY, Ohio (WKEF/WRGT) - Sky-high drug prices are making it harder for families to stay healthy, even with potential legislative reform on the horizon.
A trip to the pharmacy for medicine to lower your blood pressure shouldn't raise it. But Sylvia Bryant, like countless others, get sticker shock at the counter.
“It went up from one month to the other, almost three times actually,” Bryant said.
Out of nowhere, insurance raised the co-pay for her blood pressure meds, costing her hundreds more each year.
“I like some predictability, you know, a little bit of notice maybe, and a reason other than it's a different tier,” Bryant said.
Why are prescriptions so costly?
The United States doesn't regulate prices when they enter the market. Each insurance company negotiates with drug makers separately, unlike other countries.
For example, the cost of arthritis and Crohn’s disease medicine Humira varies greatly country-to-country.
In the United States, it costs $2,669 before insurance, in the United Kingdom $1,362 and in Switzerland $822.
Thad Franz at the Cedarville School of Pharmacy says other countries have more government oversight.
Without that stateside, how do you save?
“I would suggest, go to your local pharmacy and talk to your local pharmacist,” Franz said.
Your pharmacist can hook you up with manufacturer coupons and help you enroll in patient assistance programs which vary in each state.
Also, ask for the cash price. Sometimes it's lower than what your insurance pays, but that mostly applies to generics.
“There is going to be some that are cheaper than others,” Franz said.
Outside the pharmacy, you can search price checking websites like Good RX and Blink Health. They help you compare and negotiate costs in store and online.
Also, there are mail order companies like CRX Brands that save you money by ordering overseas.
Pharmacist Joe Jordan at Madison Avenue Pharmacy in Springfield says customers are always complaining about the costs. He believes more needs to be done to make prices reasonable.
“At some juncture, something must give with prices of medication,” Jordan said.
The turning point may come this year.
President Donald Trump is proposing legislation to increase drug company competition, improve negotiations with insurance and create incentives to lower list prices.
Until then, Bryant researches every avenue, but even that has its limits.
She believes prices won't drop until the government steps in.
“I'm not very popular in America for saying I like regulations, I don't think the free marketplace will take care of it though,” Bryant said.
Experts say one downfall of lower prices is less money for research and development, limiting competition on the marketplace.