Over the past few months I have been hearing reports of the soaring costs of prescription skin care products. For example I have received emails from readers about the heart-stopping prices for Retin A Micro( for anti-aging), BenzaClin ( for acne) and Finacea ( for rosacea). In some cases the prices have jumped as much as 400%. At first I thought it was just a mistake or an out of control pharmacy. Actually that would have been good news. A little research revealed that insanely high prices for older drugs are an all too common problem these days.
Three years ago, 45 gram tube of Retin A Micro was $300. Today, a 20 gram tube- about half the size- is $450.BenzaClin, a combination of clindamycin and benzoyl peroxide is $380, a rise of more than 200% over the past five years. Even worse the generic forms are often not available or not that much less expensive. WTF is going on?
The Ugly Truth About The High Price of Beauty
These increases seem to be happening when an old drug gets a new owner. It is such a troubling problem, that Federal prosecutors are looking into collusion between companies that sell sell branded products and those that sell the generic version. In the case of Retin A Micro, it was sold to Valeant, a giant pharmaceutical company that also sells BenzacCin. As these issues wind their way throught the courts, there are creative ways to get prescription products at a fair price.
Winning the Retin A Price Game
Retin A Micro is a genuinely effective anti-aging tool, but I refuse to hand over fees that verge on extortion After talking to pharmacists I discovered a range of much more affordable options:
– Branded Retin A Micro .04% ( 20 grams) — $450
– Generic Retin A Micro .04% ( 20 grams) — $300
– Branded Retin A .05% ( 20 grams) — $180
– Generic Retin A .05% ( 20 grams) –$110 ( now we’re talking)
Retin A Micro, is less irritating to the skin. But with three little tips you can get the same results with the least expensive generic option Retin A:
- When starting Retin A, apply 2-3x/week and gradually work up to using a pea sized dab every night
- Apply your moisturizer first and then dot on and massage in Retin A
- If you have sensitive skin you can also mix a pea size dab of generic Retin A with the same size dab of moisturizer. This will effectively dilute the generic Retin A to .025%. You can use this for several weeks until you build up a tolorance to the wonderful anti-ager.
Beating the High Cost of Acne Care
A combination of clindamycin and benzoyl peroxide is a first line treatment for mild to moderate acne. It is also used in combination with Retin A to curb the dreaded “purge”. When starting Retin A, the acne seems to get wrse before it gets better. Adding a clindamycin and benzoyl peroxide combo can prevent or at least lessen the”purge”.
Three years ago, Benzaclin( a combo of 1% clindamycin and 5% benzoyl peroxide) was around $120. At my neighborhood pharmacy its now $338 for 25 grams. The larger size is almost $500. A generic version is $150– when you can find it. But wait, there’s an even better option. You can get the same medication by purchasing the two ingredients separately. The generic form of Clindamycin pads is $49 for a two month supply. And you can get 2.5% or 5% benzoyl peroxide gel for $8. Your total is now $57 — a vast improvement on $338.
The key to getting the best prices on skin care products starts with the way your doctor writes the prescription. Make certain he specifies the right size of the generic forms of the medications If your pharmacy says. they don’t have it, go to another pharmacy.
One final thought- The astonishing price rise in older medications is not limited to skin care products. Prices for older drugs including those used for cancer, ulcerative colitis, and during surgery have also soared into triple digets. Recently the price of an essential AIDs drug leaped from $13 to $750 per dose when it was sold to a entrepreneur who apparently did not have a conscience. These excesses have led to legal challenges from a number of authorities. The FTC is investigating more than 8 pharmaceutical companies and Senators from Iowa and Minnisota have introduced much needed regulatory legislation.
Let me know if your prescriptions have more than doubled recently and I will try to help you find affordable alternatives. I believe that the entreprennurial spirit is part of the fiber of our country but IMHO there should be a special room in hell for those that drastically raise the price of older drugs that save lives and relieve suffering. Just saying.