When Carol Ann Riha, 57, filled her prescription for the generic cholesterol-lowering drug Pravastatin, she was in for sticker shock. For months she’d been paying $4 for a 30-day supply. Suddenly the price had climbed more than four times as high, to nearly $19. “I asked my pharmacist why, and she had no answer,” says Riha, a retired journalist who lives with her husband in West Des Moines, Iowa.
Around the same time, Riha’s generic hormone replacement medication, which had averaged about $40 a month out of pocket, soared to $101. On a fixed income, Riha keeps track of every penny. By her accounting, the drugs that cost her $849 in 2013 almost doubled in price last year, to $1,700.
Across the country, people like Riha are going in to fill prescriptions only to discover that the cost has doubled, tripled and in some cases soared by 1,000 percent or more. The price spikes for some generics are so steep and unexpected that the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging held a hearing late last year to investigate. While overall health care spending has held relatively steady in recent years, the cost of drugs has outstripped inflation — sometimes by a long shot.
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