As prescription drug prices soar, many are left wondering how to afford medication

By Bill Spencer - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - Inside his Houston workshop Sharad Mulchand carefully stitches together beautiful, handcrafted, leather carrying pouches for cellphones.

Even at 68-year-old and battling Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia, Mulchand, a former architect, is still works long hours.

But no matter how hard he toils, there is one giant bill he is struggling mightily to pay.

"Look at those pills, that’s a one month supply and it costs $10,200.00. That’s just one month", Mulchand says.

Sharad is talking about the prescription drug that is keeping him alive.

"I have to take one pill every day to stay alive. And lately I have really been questioning what is my life worth," Mulchand said, choking back tears.

Fifteen years ago, Mulchand says the drug cost about $3,000 a month.

But now, at more than $10,000 for a 30-day supply, Mulchand said his out-of-pocket cost for the drug, even with good insurance, is more than $12,000 a year, for just that one drug.

"I’m telling you, I don’t have that kind of money to pay," Mulchand said.

According to AARP’s Leigh Purvis, Director of Health Services and Research, huge drug price increases are happening everywhere, with both brand name and even generic drugs.

"I think we are rapidly approaching a point where people are going to be completely unable to access the drugs they need to get and stay healthy. We’re going to have more and more people facing the prospect of not treating perfectly treatable conditions," Purvis said.

Recent examples include the EpiPen made by Mylan. It is used to treat serious allergic reactions and it recently became worldwide news when company officials were accused of driving up the price of the EpiPen more than 400% in 10 years, from under $100 in 2006 to more than $500 in 2016.

Another example, Insulin medications.

They are a life saver for 6-year-old Dorian Carra of Midlothian, Texas.

Every day Dorian requires up to a dozen insulin injections, but prices for insulin drugs like Novalog, up 381%, Humalog, up 380% and Lantus, up 400% over the last 10 years have skyrocketed in price to the point where Dorian’s parents are struggling to pay for the very drug keeping their son alive.

"It makes me feel like I’m paying somebody for my kids life," Tiffany Carra, Dorian’s mother said.

There are many other examples.

Daraprim, an anti-parasitic drug that made international news when it’s price skyrocketed more than 5,000% overnight.

Novacort, used to treat eczema and psoriasis, soaring 2,900% in two years.

Alcortin A, used to treat serious skin infections, up 1860% in the same amount of time.

Lithostat, for urinary infections, jumping 1,000% since 2014.

Tenormin, used to treat chest pain, hypertension and high blood pressure, up more than 500% over several years.
(Source: DRX)

"It’s outrageous, I am personally outraged by it. To know that it’s basically your money or your life," Congressman Lloyd Doggett, Texas 35th District, said.

Now, Texas Congressman Lloyd Doggett is fighting a fierce battle to stop what he calls prescription drug price gouging by big Pharma companies.

Last year he created The Prescription Drug Task Force to lower fast-rising prescription drug prices and force drug manufacturers to make their pricing more transparent to the public.

A key goal of the task force is to force pharmaceutical manufacturers to negotiate prices with Medicare.

The group also wants to increase pricing competition by ending drug exclusivity deals sooner.

"We need to provide more competition, by preventing some of the practices that are going on in extending drug monopolies. We need the public demanding action. That’s what will eventually cause our leaders to lead and standup to the pharmaceutical manufacturers," Doggett said.

As for Mulchand, he just keeps on working and praying, that what he calls our broken prescription drug system, can be stitched back together, before he runs out of money to buy what he needs to live.

If you are paying high prices for your prescription drugs there are several things you can do to try and lower that cost.

  1. Ask your doctor if there are other cheaper drugs he can prescribe that will treat your condition just as effectively.
  2. Go to GoodRx, a website that offers you the ability to price shop for the lowest price for the drug you need in your neighborhood.
  3. Check with the maker of your prescription drug, ask if the company offers a patient assistance program that can save you money or provide you with a discount for the drug you take
  4. Go to the website which lists the different drug manufacturers and what assistance programs they offer.

If you would like to learn more about Sharad Mulchand visit his website here.

2016 Click2Houston/KPRC2