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The Great Generic Drug Rip-off: Michigan Legislature Works to Keep Prescription Drug Costs Artificially High

Margaret Dodd - April 1st, 2004
Since I am considering a run for the 104th District, I have been looking into various issues of concern to me and to the area as a whole. Among these of course, is the retention and addition of good paying jobs. To get the information I wanted first hand, I’ve met with employers in both the public and private sectors to ask what changes they thought should take place at the State level to achieve this goal. At some point in every conversation the spiraling costs of health care came up. Having heard of a downstate investigation into excessive retail pharmacy mark-ups of generic drugs, I enlisted the help of friends to check the cost of seven common generic drugs at several local pharmacies.
The range of pricing is astonishing, even if pharmacies deal with different wholesalers whose prices could be higher than those stated. Unless some good reason can be given for windfall profits of 3000% above wholesale, some pharmacies are displaying an unconscionable disregard for the well-being of those who can least afford to be ripped off – the elderly, the unemployed, and anyone who is struggling to pay for their prescription medicine.
I had originally planned to wait and see what happened to legislation drafted by the chairman of the State House Committee on Health Policy, State Rep. Stephen Ehardt (R), who owns four drug stores. The proposed legislation is designed to protect Michigan pharmacies from competition from out-of-state, mail-order drug companies, and the results of the survey could have added another fine plank to my platform should I decide to run.
However, I just picked up my mother’s prescription and met an elderly lady who had to leave the drug store empty-handed because she couldn’t afford her necessary medication. The information is therefore too important to wait till the most opportune time for my political purpose, so here it is. It certainly helps to explain some of the problems facing local employers who could perhaps afford to hire more employees or increase wages if such exorbitant prescription mark-ups were eliminated.
Consider the wholesale cost of a generic form of Prozac (called Fluoxetine HCL) compared to what you must pay at the drugstore, for instance. Wholesalers charge drugstores $1.16 for 30 doses of 20mg each of Prozac, or .082 cents for its generic counterpart.
What do you pay for the same drug? At Meijer‘s Pharmacy, it‘s $17.99, or a markup of 2,193%; at Rite Aid Pharmacy, you‘ll pay $24.99, or a mark-up of 3,247%; at Wal-Mart Pharmacy the cost is $17.72, or a mark-up of 2,087%. Only at the far smaller drugstore at Sixth Street Drugs in Traverse City is the cost much lower at $11.05, yet still with a mark-up of 1,348%.
Shame on the big name pharmacies, but at least we now know where to shop.
 
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