PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Generic medications used to be a no-brainer because they were a sure way to save on prescription costs.

However, there’s been a spike in prices and some are struggling to pay for what was once affordable.

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For many people, generic medications just make sense.

“Primarily because they’re cheaper, and it serves the same purpose,” one woman said.

But, some prices have skyrocketed, up to ten times as much.

“The prices have gone up. So much so, it’s actually becoming a problem for them to afford the medication,” Allegheny General Hospital Internal Medicine Dr. Marc Itskowitz said.

Medication like digoxin for certain heart conditions, and levothyroxine for underactive thyroid, some pain medicines, and prednisolone, a steroid for allergies, arthritis and rashes.

Pharmacies have to pay more and to keep customers from having to pay more, pharmacies eat the cost.

“You have to do what’s best for the patient, and sometimes that even means losing money to do that,” Dan Asti, of Asti Pharmacy said.

Factors that can cause drug makers to raise the price of generics include, problems getting the raw materials, increased cost of complying with FDA requirements and other producers no longer making the drug.

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“There’s only one or two suppliers of that medicine to begin with, and if one goes out of the market place, the guy that’s left standing has almost carte blanche to do anything he wants with his price. And we’ve seen those increases happen,” Asti said.

Some people simply won’t fill their prescription because of the cost, but they put themselves at risk of ending up in the emergency room, in intensive care, or even dying.

“I think a lot of physicians don’t realize that some generics can actually be expensive, and we should talk to our patients to see if they’re having trouble affording their medicine,” Dr. Itskowitz said.

Many times, doctors don’t even know because their patients don’t tell them. Pharmacists may be able to make the medicine from scratch themselves, or find less expensive options.

“The free market usually works this out. If there’s more of a demand, perhaps other manufacturers might get involved, and that might lower the price of the medication, but it might take some time,” Dr. Itskowitz said.

Though, lower prices aren’t a priority for everyone.

“If the prices go up, it’s product in demand. When it comes to your health, you’ll pay whatever it takes,” one man said.


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Dr. Maria Simbra