Brand name prescriptions to blame for high prices

The prices of prescription drugs have steadily increased over the past decade. The Florida A&M University health clinic has also seen a rise in the prices of prescription drugs and attributes it to many different factors.

Since 1990 prescription drug spending has increased four times, with spending hitting $162.4 billion in 2002. Pharmaceutical manufacturers were the nation’s most profitable industry from 1995-2002, according to statistics found by The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

The factors contributing the most to the prescription increase is the increased usage of brand drugs instead of the generic forms and increased manufacturing prices for existing drugs. The types of drugs have changed making the newer high-priced drugs replace the older, less expensive generic drugs.

“We have no control over the prices of brand drugs but with generic drugs we can shop around,” said Martha Ross, FAMU pharmacy manager.

FAMU is a part of a state buyers group that allows the state to negotiate prescription drug prices.

The brand drugs are more expensive than the generic form.

The revenue from the brand prescription drugs helps to fund drug-related research studies. When a company develops a brand drug, it retains ownership of the brand for 10 years and controls pricing and distribution.

After 10 years, the drug can be used by other companies and produced as a generic drug.

FAMU’s prescription drug costs are cheaper than other local pharmacies and FAMU’s pricing on several generic and brand drugs were cheaper than local pharmacies, said Ross.

FAMU’s prices, when compared to those of Walgreens and CVS, were considerably lower than both pharmacies.

For 14 tablets of the allergy drug Allegra-D, FAMU’s price ($24.40) was $10.99 lower than Walgreens’ price and $3.89 lower than that of CVS.

One of the biggest price differences was seen in the generic form of the antibiotic drug Cipro 500mg. FAMU charges $50.19 less than Walgreens and $33.79 less than CVS.

The difference in prices can be attributed to a phenomenon called competitive pricing. Pharmacy retailers are in competition with each other to make a profit, so when one company sets a drug price at a certain level the other companies won’t make their prices too much lower than the other company.

“Why do you think they [pharmacy companies] are so rich. We serve the FAMU students. We are not for profit,” Ross said about the prices.

Some FAMU students agree that the prices are cheaper than the local chain pharmacies but are wary about utilizing the FAMU pharmacy facilities.

Erin Forde, 22, a senior elementary education student from Pompano said there were several reasons behind her reluctance to visit the FAMU pharmacy.

“The pharmacy looks like a hole in the wall and when you go back there the workers are never behind the counter,” Forde said. “We already pay a health fee so this should be covered.”

FAMU’s pharmacy does take prescriptions from outside doctors from anywhere around the country, depending on availability.

One of the pharmacy’s problems is that they can’t stock all of the drugs on the market because of the size of the facility; so they only carry the most popular drugs.

“FAMU needs to update the building. They need new equipment and need to clean up the place for somebody to want to go get a prescription,” said Zandra Smith, 21, a senior elementary education student from Miami.

Despite problems with the facility, both students agree that FAMU offers the lowest prices for prescription drugs than the chain pharmacies.

“Students have come back to me and said that they have gotten better prices on drugs from here than at the store,” Ross said.

The prices for prescription drugs are projected to increase steadily in the next 10 years by 10.7 percent annually, which is a reduction from what has been seen for the past 10 years. FAMU’s prices are some of the lowest in the area.

Contact Tiffany Parker at