While many drugs shot up in price in 2020, some are lower. New generics have been approved, offering less expensive alternatives for some brand-name drugs.
Pharmaceutical companies raised prices on hundreds of medications in 2020. But some drug costs have gone down. That’s especially good news for people who need specific prescription medications long-term.
For the most part, drug prices that are lower in 2020 are generic versions of higher-priced brand-names. If you’ve wondered why generic brands aren’t immediately available after brand-named medications hit the market, here’s the explanation.
Drug companies spend years researching and testing new drugs. Because of this expensive process, they receive a 20-year patent on the medications they develop. The higher prices of name-brand drugs help pharmaceutical companies recoup costs and fund their operations.
After the patent is up, manufacturers of generic drugs can produce their own versions of the brand-name medications, as long as testing by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shows the generic versions perform as well as their brand-name drugs. Due to trademark laws, generic drugs can’t look exactly the same as brand-name medications, and they don’t necessarily taste the same or contain identical fillers and other inactive ingredients.
However, generics must be bioequivalent, meaning they match the brand-name drugs’ strength, quality, and effectiveness, the FDA explains. But, because generic drug manufacturers don’t have the research, testing, and marketing costs associated with brand-name drugs, generics hit the market with far cheaper price tags.
Several patents for brand-name drugs have expired, resulting in drug prices that are lower in 2020 for a number of widely prescribed medications, according to research by GoodRx, an online drug price comparison platform.
Lower-priced medications for mental health disorders
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental health disorder marked by above normal levels of impulsive or hyperactive behavior. Two of the most widely prescribed medications for ADHD, Adderall and Ritalin, now have affordable generic counterparts that cost less than $30 for a month’s supply.
Three other drugs for ADHD — Concerta, Strattera, and Vyvanse — have increased about 12 percent. However, although Vyvanse remains a brand-only prescription medication, generics for Concerta and Strattera are now available at significantly lower prices. Another drug used to treat ADHD, Seroquel XR, also currently has a generic form, quetiapine ER, reducing the cost of the medication by 40 percent.
Drugs prescribed to treat anxiety and depression have dropped almost 20 percent between 2014 and 2020. The reason, according to GoodRx, is largely because multiple generics are now available for these drugs, and competition has lower costs. Lexapro, a serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) prescribed to treat depression and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), now has a generic version, escitalopram, with a price tag of about 40 percent less than past years.
Cymbalta, a selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor antidepressant (SSNRI), is a drug with multiple uses. It’s prescribed for major depression and anxiety as well as for diabetic neuropathy (nerve pain) and chronic muscle or joint pain, too. Duloxetine, a generic version of Cymbalta now available is 82 percent cheaper than 2014 prices of the name-brand drug.
Likewise, the generic drug version of Ablify, aripiprazole (prescribed for psychiatric conditions including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depressive disorder), on the market has a dramatically lower the cost (almost 70 percent) than brand-name Abilify’s price over the same time period.
More drug prices that are lower In 2020
- Medications for erectile dysfunction (ED). Several generic versions of popular name-brand ED medications — Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra — were introduced in 2017, and they have all decreased in price over the years. For example, sildenafil, the generic version of Viagra, has seen a price drop of 74 percent. That’s an even bigger medication bargain when you consider prices for Viagra and Cialis have increased by 165 percent and 119 percent, respectively, since 2015, according to GoodRx.
- Statins for high cholesterol levels. Since 2016, the average list price for brand-name and available statins has dropped substantially, with prices remaining lower in 2020, for the most part, than they were a few years ago. Although the cost of generic statins can vary widely, most are now much less costly than their brand-name counterparts. For example, the popular generic equivalent of Zocor (simvastatin) now usually costs less than $50 dollars a month, but a brand-name statin like Livalo, which still lacks a generic alternative, can cost over $350.
- Medications to prevent or treat migraines. List prices for popular migraine drugs, including the generic versions of Treximet (sumatriptan/naproxen sodium), eletriptan, divalproex ER, rizatriptan, and naratriptan, have all decreased in list price by almost 60 percent over the last two years.
The price for specific drugs can vary widely. So, it makes sense to talk to your doctor and pharmacist about not only what medication is best for your specific condition but also what’s best for your budget, including your insurance coverage.
August 19, 2020
Janet O’Dell, RN