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Thursday, January 21, 2010

More On the High Cost of Drugs

Well, I heard an ad on TV yesterday talking about yet another treatment for rosacea. Rosacea is a chronic skin condition. The mild cases can be no more than a nuisance causing only mild redness and irritation of the face. More severe cases can result in abcesses, infection and scarring.

Well the gist of this commercial was that you could get some kind of card from the manufacturer that would help defray the cost of the drug. With the card you'd only have to pay $25 for a prescription.

The drug is called Oracea 40mg. I did some investigating.

Oracea is doxycycline(supposedly a time realease version). It is a tetracycline drug that has been around quite a long time (at least as long as I've been a doctor). I found on one online pharmacy a price for Oracea of  $299.00 for thirty 40mg capsules. GASP! You can get thirty 50mg doxycycline capsules at Walmart for $4.00.

Now how does this work exactly? Well, it's easy. The drug company sends around some good looking, long legged, girl drug rep with a miniskirt nearly up to her private parts to tell "unsuspecting" physicians about the new wonder drug Oracea. Believe it or not, a good number of these physicians will write patients a prescription for the $300 drugs, giving no thought to the fact that the same drug can be had for pennies at Walmart.


Who is to blame? Well I don't blame the drug company. If I am in business to make money and I can do a song and dance and make a convincing argument to sell an expensive product at a huge profit, then by all means, go for the gusto! If I can put a paintjob on a Volkswagen and sell it as a $100,000 Porsch then what the heck? I am a capitalist after all. The Statist would come up with a variety of gubment regulations against such practices.

I of course blame my colleagues. Some of them are too busy or perhaps too lazy to realize the fact that Oracea is nothing more than doxycycline. Perhaps some of them are swayed by the long legged girl in the miniskirt. Whatever the reason, a lot of poor folks get stuck with a bill for a $300 drug when they could have gotten the same result for $4.00. Even if you get this magic card (you have to join a thing called "Best Face Forward" to get it) you'll still pay a lot more than you would at Wally World.
There are a few instances when brand name drugs are better than generics (differences in absorption rates and bio-availability etc.) but with Oracea, this is not the case, at least I can't find any evidence to the contrary.

My advice is to ask your doctor if there is a generic alternative for the expensive drug he/she has just prescribed for you. If there is, ask him/her why you should not receive the generic. If the doctor won't give you a reasonable explanation for using the expensive brand, find another doctor.


  1. Very interesting. More investigation of some of the other "new" drugs might be in order.

    Right Truth

  2. It's an old trick. They take an old drug, come up with a new indication or a new release mechanism, get a new patent, and charge big prices.