Sunday, August 16, 2009

Less is more

I was investigating the Walmart $4 prescriptions program, and was somewhat dismayed and angried by the treatment of oral contraceptives. Both ethinylestradiol and levonorgestrel have been off-patent for years, and the various combinations of them are quite cheap. To establish how cheap, I looked it up at a local online pharmacy.

Microgynon is a monophasic oral contraceptive pill which contains levonorgestrel 100mcg together with a varying amount of ethinylestradiol: 50mcg in the original formulation, down to 20mcg in the newest formulations. It's not as though it costs them more to make a product with less EE. Why, then, is the pricing

Microgynon 50 35.97
Microgynon 35 68.97
Microgynon 20 123.99

These figures are for a year's supply. These pharmacies are making a profit on these prescriptions; there is no loss leader effect like with Walmart. There is no government subsidy on these medications.

There are two lessons here:
  • Walmart is lying when it says that the reason for $9 OCPs vs $4 other pills is because it needs to be profitable. Logynon-ED (generic of Triphasil) is 34.99 for 12 months supply. Why aren't they offering 3-month supply of Sprintec/Tri-Sprintec?
  • Big Pharma is really out to rip us off for all we are worth. Reducing the amount of active ingredient and charging 4x as much? Priceless.
(All prices are in Australian dollars; multiply by .8 to convert to USD.)

h/t to tbtam for encouraging OCP affordability for all women. If I could arrange to send pills overseas to needy women, I would.

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