One man’s experience with monopoly drug prices

Will Astor, a semi-retired journalist in Rochester, N.Y., the city where I live, depends on drugs to keep his prostate cancer in check.  Recently his physician put him on a new drug, abiraterone, a generic form of Johnson & Johnson’s brand-name Zytiga.

His monthly co-pay: $1,700 a month.  The total cost of the drug: $11,000 a month.  How much would Zytiga have cost? J&J wouldn’t say.

I was under the impression that generic drugs, which can be sold when the brand-name drugs are no longer under patent protection, were cheaper than the brand-name drugs.  But Astor’s research indicated that this is only true when two or more companies make the drug.  When only one company makes a generic drug, it is only slightly less than the brand-name version.

Some countries set drug prices, based on the cost of manufacturing plus a reasonable mark-up.  The Biden administration’s Build Back Better bill passed by the House of Representatives includes a provision allowing the federal government to negotiate drug prices for Medicare patients, which is now forbidden.  Republicans in the Senate oppose that provision of the bill, and it may not pass.

A pharmacist at the University of Rochester Medical Center found Astor a charity, called the Assistance Fund, that gave him a one-year grant to cover virtually all of his co-pay.  That’s fortunate for him, although he has no guarantee the grant will be renewed, but of course this isn’t available to most people.

Astor wrote a well-researched article about the high price of generic drugs in the Rochester Beacon, a local on-line publication. It’s well worth a look.


Life-Threatening Costs by Will Astor for the Rochester Beacon.

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One Response to “One man’s experience with monopoly drug prices”

  1. silverapplequeen Says:

    I’m on a certain medication for my bipolar disorder & migraines .. I’ve been on it twenty years. It’s the only med that works for me & the generic does NOT work at all whatsoever. In the last twenty years, I’ve seen this medication SKYROCKET in price. I was once on 600 mg a day … this was ten years ago. Back then, without insurance, that cost $600 a month. In the last few years, I’ve been cut back to 300 mg a day & without insurance, that’s $6000 a month. My prescribing doctor wants to cut me back to 200 mg & I’m fighting this. I preferred the 600 mg dosage but I’ve done fairly well on the lower dose, even with some terrible depressive spells that I’ve managed to get through. But I’m under no illusions. I know that my insurance company (whatever the Medicare part D is this year, for some reason it changes every year) is actively fighting my doctor about this medication. Nobody wants me to be on the only medication that works, the only one without debilitating side effects, the only one my body can work with. They only care about their stupid bottom line & their profits.

    We Americans deserve better than this.


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