The price of pills

New rule will require prescription drug prices in TV ads


SAN ANTONIO – The Trump administration announced a new rule Wednesday that would require pharmaceutical manufacturers to publish the list price for drugs on TV ads.

However, those prices, which may be in the hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars, may not end up being what you eventually pay due to a variety of a factors such as your insurance, your pharmacy and who you are.

"If the commercial says $700, the cost to you could be $700. It could be $30. It could be $100. It could be $0," said Dr. Mathew Garber, a professor at the University of the Incarnate Word's Feik School of Pharmacy.

The rule requires prescription pharmaceuticals that are covered by Medicare or Medicaid and cost more than $35 per month or for a usual course of treatment to have the price included in the commercials.

Garber believes many people will be in for a shock when they see some of the prices on the ads. The 10 most commonly advertised drugs have list prices between $488 and $16,938, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

But figuring out what you will actually end up paying can be difficult.

"You could have two people walk in, one after the other, and have vastly different prices for the exact same prescription for the same use," Garber said.

The best course of action to find out the price, he said, is to ask your pharmacist directly. However, Scott Frishman, the pharmacist in charge at Oakdell Pharmacy in the Medical Center, said they don't even know the price until they receive a prescription and run the claim.

Even then, the pharmacist may not know why the price is set where it is for that customer.

"I probably get asked every day at the counter, 'Why is it this price?'" Frishman  said. "'Ma'am, it's out of my control. What your insurance is telling me is what you're going to pay.'"

If a price comes back higher than you expected, there may be a generic version available for less or even a similar drug in the same category that would be cheaper than the prescribed medicine.

While Garber said your insurance company may have online resources to provide you an idea of the price, you need a doctor or pharmacist involved if you want to compare what your options are with other drugs.

But the bottom line is to not fall prey to sticker shock from the ads.

"If you're concerned, seek medical help," Garber said. "Don't be scared off by that price, and see what the price to you is going to be."

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