Steep Price Increases Hit Patients Using Dermatology Drugs

For people with some skin cancers, Targretin gel is the drug of choice to treat it. However, a new study shows that over the last six years the price has jumped from $1,600 for a supply to more than $30,000, a 1,700 percent increase. 

That's not the only skin drug jumping in price. Carac cream, which is also used for skin cancer, saw a similar jump. The price of Oxistat, used to treat athlete's foot and jock itch, jumped more than 600 percent. Two drugs used to treat psoriasis, Soriatane and Olux-E foam, jumped more than 100 percent in price each.

Joel White with advocacy groupCouncil for Affordable Health Coverage said price increases like that have lawmakers looking for solutions. 

“Others have proposed price controls or importing drugs from Canada," White said.  

White believes a better solution is to increase competition. 

“There is a huge backlog of generic drug applications waiting for approval at the FDA right now. So, getting additional resources to the FDA to get more of those products approved and out into the market would do more to lower drug costs than anything else at this point,” he said.

You don't need to wait for government action to save money. 

“Most of the pharmaceutical companies have patient assistance programs,” White said. "If you cannot afford the medication, the manufacturers will help defray the cost or pick up the cost 100 percent."

Asking the right people at your doctor’s office can help. 

“Here again, the office manager or nurse practitioner will be your best bet, will be your best bet to get in touch with someone at the patient assistance program to help you defray those costs," White said. 

Also, ask your doctor about generics and even how your pharmacy can help.

“There are pharmacies across the country that will safely compound a product and sell it at a discounted price,” White said. 

There are also groups like the Patient Advocate Foundation that can help many people with costs. 

“Whether it is cost sharing on a physician or hospital visit or on prescription drugs, there are skilled counselors that will help patients learn about ways they can lower their medical bills," White said.  

While some manufactures may be jacking up prices, you don't always have to pay them.

White said that despite the price jumps on some drugs, overall prescription costs make up about 10 percent of all healthcare spending. If you do need expensive medications, looking at those rebates from manufacturers or at generics is still your best bet. 

Source: AZ Family, ay Crandall