Action 9: Price for generic drugs skyrocketing

by: Jason Stoogenke Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Channel 9 has uncovered alarming prices for generic prescription drugs.
 
Many prices have skyrocketed in the past year. Drug prices have gone up  400 to 600 percent or more on common medications.
 
Action 9 investigator Jason Stoogenke has spent weeks investigating what's behind the price hike and where you can go for help.
 
Michael Joseph is a short order cook who finds himself short on funds when it comes to ordering meds for his wife.
 
Her generics are giving him sticker shock.
 
“Just pricing five bottles of pills, we heard what they said -- $500,” he said. “I’m like, ‘Man, wow.’ How are we going to afford it?”
 
Pharmacist Robby Jones with Giant Genie Pharmacy said it’s the biggest jump he’s seen and he’s been a pharmacist for 35 years.
 
One example Jones showed Channel 9 was a rash cream.
 
“The price on it forever has been just dollars -- $2, $3, $4 for an ounce,” he said. “And it costs now $126.14.”
 
He also showed a common antibiotic.

“It used to be, again, probably less than $10 for a bottle of 50, and this bottle here costs us $184.55,” Jones said.
 
Jones and insurance companies said there are fewer drug manufacturers and with less competition, the companies can charge more.
 
A Blue Cross Blue Shield spokeswoman told Stoogenke by phone it’s not the company’s fault.
 
“What they charge to the pharmacy, we don’t have any (control) regarding that, regarding the generics,” said Estay Greene with BCBS of North Carolina.
 
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill pharmacy professor Joel Farley said drug companies charge what they want.
 
“The prices of medications are basically set by manufacturers in terms of what they choose to set prices at,” he said.
 
Stoogenke asked 10 companies that make generics what it would take to keep prices down. He didn’t hear back from any of them.
 
The Generic Pharmaceutical Association said it would take fewer doctors prescribing the meds, the cost of raw materials going down or new companies getting into the business to create competition.
 
Jones said some medicines he buys are so expensive, insurance companies won’t cover them anymore.
 
"One day you might be paying $3 for it. The next day, you might be paying $300 and it's not an exaggeration.  That's the truth,” Jones said.
 
“That’s more than what I make just working a week,” Joseph said. “It’s stressful, you know.”
 
The cook said the price could “eat him alive.”
 
Local health officials recommended using MedAssist to help with costs. Click here for more information.