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Prices Soar For Some Generic Drugs -- Why?

(CBS) -- Generic drugs were supposed to save Americans millions of dollars,  but today some cost as much or more than brand-name drugs.

The price increase has been described by some congressmen as staggering. They're joining doctors, pharmacists and patients in asking why.

CBS 2's Dorothy Tucker reports.

Charlotte Akinsowon is rationing some of her medication. It's a life-threatening decision she feels forced to make to pay for her generic drugs, including Simvastatin for high cholesterol and amlodipine for high blood pressure. Her total cost has tripled from $45 to $140 per month.

"When you're on a fixed income, it's a lot of money," she says.

Those are just the few of the many generic drugs that are skyrocketing. An ointment for eczema and psoriasis is another one. Clobetasol, which used to cost $10 for the entire tube, now costs $300, says Kushal Patel, pharmacy manager at Well Future Pharmacy.

"The same exact medication we got one day. Next day, it's an increase of three thousand percent," Patel says.

In the past year, Patel figures he's seen the cost of more than 20 different generic drugs spike in price.

Most makers of generic drugs did not respond to questions. But Taro, makers of the $300 ointment, did. It said market dynamics for generics are very fluid.

Is there anything that consumers can do?

Patel says not really: "If the price goes up, consumers really have no option but either to take the medicine or not take it."

Akinsowon says she realizes the risks of cutting back on her prescription drugs.

"Especially with the blood pressure, yes, I am. But I pray and keep on going," she says.

The Generic Pharmaceutical Association blames the price hikes on market forces like supply and demand and the cost of raw materials.

A congressional committee has sent letters to 14 manufacturers, asking them to explain the sudden increases.

For more information about the manufacturers and the drugs they make, click here.



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