Explore Switching To A Cheaper Medication
If you have run out of options for affording your medication, go back to your healthcare provider and see if there are less expensive options for treatment, such as generic drugs or alternate ones that cost less. If a patient presented to me at my pharmacy, and they were on something like Enbrel or Cosentyx, and they couldnt afford it anymore, get a manufacturers coupon or anything like that, I would say, Look, youve got to get with your doctor and evaluate and see if theres another option,’ says Dr. Nouhavandi.
Why Are Biologics So Expensive
Following the maturation of recombinant DNA technology in the 1970s, biologics have been emerging as a prominent class of pharmaceuticals. To illustrate, seven out of the 10 best-selling pharmaceuticals in 2018 were biologics, including Humira, Opdivo, Keytruda, Enbrel, Herceptin, Avastin and Rituxan. The worlds best selling pharmaceutical, Humira, which is prescribed for a variety of autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, Crohns disease, ulcerative colitis, psoriasis and juvenile idiopathic arthritis, brought in nearly US$20 billion in worldwide sales last year.
The growing importance of biologics is due, in large part, to their remarkable therapeutic qualities. Biologics provide treatment and sometimes even a cure for some of the most devastating and often previously untreatable illnesses, including numerous types of cancer, autoimmune diseases such as arthritis, Crohns disease and psoriasis, some forms of blindness and more.
The high price of biologics is partly due to the costly manufacturing facilities and the large investment in research and development necessary in order to take biologics through clinical trials and FDA approval processes. In 2009, the R& D cost for a copycat biologic was estimated at between $100200 million. Conducting the research and clinical trials necessary to develop a new biologic is estimated to cost in the range of hundreds of millions dollars for a typical biological product.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatments Were Already Costly
Prior to 2020, rheumatoid arthritis treatments were already expensive for many, even if their insurance covered the costs of pricey biologic drugs. For those in the Medicare Part D coverage gap or the uninsured, annual out-of-pocket costs ranged from severe to out-of-reach. For instance, annual out-of-pocket costs were $4,801 in 2019 for people on Medicare Part D who took biologics, including Cimzia , Enbrel , Humira , and Simponi , according to a study published in April 2020 in JAMA Network Open. The average retail price for a years worth of Humira, without insurance or discount coupons, can be as much as $111,000 per year, according to GoodRx with Cimzia, Enbrel, and Simponi all being similarly priced.
You May Like: Same Dosage For Arthritis
Pick The Right Biologic For You
There are nine biologics available for the treatment of RA. Each type targets a specific inflammatory mechanism of the immune system. Some are given as an injection — a shot under the skin — others are given by infusing it directly into a vein . These drugs can be used alone but are often combined with methotrexate or other RA medications.
|Two doses, two weeks apart about every 6 months|
|Tocilizumab||IV or injection||IV: Once a month injection: Weekly or every other week|
Biologics are used to treat RA when methotrexate has failed. If one biologic doesnât work, your doctor will try another one. It may take some time to find the best drug for you.
The other factor to consider when choosing or switching drugs is side effects. With all of the biologics, you are at increased risk of serious infection.
When To Take A Biologic Drug
Most people should try a non-biologic RA drug for at least three months. If you do not feel better or move more easily after three months, you should talk with your doctor about options such as adding another non-biologic or starting a new biologic. The combination of non-biologics that is sometimes called triple therapy may be the most cost-effective.
If a non-biologic or a combination of non-biologics did not help you, theres a good chance that a biologic will give relief.
People react to drugs differently. If one biologic does not help, you can try another. But never take two biologic drugs at the same time.
In rare cases, your doctor may skip more common treatments and go straight to biologics. This may make sense if your RA is already advanced when it is first diagnosed. Check with your doctor about using this aggressive approach to treatment.
If you need a biologic, ask your doctor if a less expensive version of the biologic, called a biosimilar, is available. Biosimilars are analogous to generic versions of drugs, with similar effectiveness but reduced cost.
This report is for you to use when talking with your health-care provider. It is not a substitute for medical advice and treatment. Use of this report is at your own risk.
You May Like: Rheumatoid Factor 17
Biologics For Ra: Costs And Insurance
Biologic drugs for rheumatoid arthritis work for 2 out of 3 people who take them for RA. These genetically engineered drugs often slow or halt the progression of joint damage, and they may even push RA into remission. But the drugs are expensive they cost about $1,000 to $3,000 a month. Even with health insurance, your out-of-pocket costs can add up to hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Hereâs what you need to know about paying for biologics if your doctor wants to add one to your RA treatment plan.
Drug Cost Concerns Reach A Tipping Point
Public concern over high prescription drug prices in the United States has clearly reached a tipping point.
People are fed up, Katsanis said, largely because of the recent news coverage of people like Turings Shkreli. If you missed his instant infamy, heres a recap: Shkrelis company acquired Daraprim, a generic drug for toxoplasmosis. For people with suppressed immune systems such as those with cancer and HIV patients, as well as pregnant women the drug is not only lifesaving, there are no equivalent medicines on the market.
With the market cornered, he announced the companys plan to raise the price of the drug by 5,000 percent, from $13.50 a pill to $750 a pill.
Within days of Shkrelis announcement, Mark L. Baum, chief executive officer of Imprimis Pharmaceuticals, said his firms competing toxoplasmosis drug would sell for $1 a capsule. In response, Shkreli said he would back away from the price hike.
Other drug companies followed suit, if only because theyve been publicly chastised.
Valeant Pharmaceuticals was harshly criticized by members of Congress and others after it acquired two heart medications and then raised the price of the two drugs by more than 200 percent. This week, it announced sweeping price-cutting measures.
The company said Tuesday it plans to deliver more than $600 million in annual savings to U.S. consumers after agreeing to cut the price of several of its drugs as part of distribution agreements with the retail chain Walgreens.
Read Also: Bee Pollen For Arthritis
Efforts To Make Biologics More Affordable
Now, there are things called âbiosimilarsâ available for some biologics. As the name implies, these more affordable alternatives are similar, but not identical, to the original biologic.
Trials must show that a biosimilar drug is as safe and effective as the original biologic. The FDA is still refining the requirements a drug will have to meet to be called “biosimilar.” There are currently several available and more to come
How Singlecare Can Help
Due to the high cost of medication, more and more people rely on healthcare companies like SingleCare to help them save hundreds of dollars on their prescriptions. At SingleCare, we believe its really important to provide prescription discounts to everyone in America that are free to access, regardless of insurance status, says Manav Malhotra, VP of data at SingleCare. And as we strive to make drugs more affordable and accessible, a big part of that is making sure there is price transparency for the consumer.
And while Americans are used to shopping around for prices, they dont do it with medications. Its hard to imagine purchasing any product without any idea of what its going to cost you until you get to the register, but thats traditionally how the pharmacy industry worked, Malhotra says. We want consumers to know exactly what they are going to pay at any of our pharmacy partners before they set foot inside. Many consumers dont even realize that prices vary between pharmacies just across the street from each other. A market driven by an informed consumer making informed decisions is the first step toward lowering prices.
Start searching for your medication here to see how much you can save.
Recommended Reading: Rheumatoid Arthritis In Lower Back Symptoms
Questioning The Value Of Expensive Arthritis Drugs
In the last ten years, a new class of rheumatoid arthritis drugs, called biologics, have muscled their way into the prescription pads of doctors and the medicine cabinets of their patients. But are they better than cheaper, existing drugs?
UBC health economist Aslam Anis was part of U.S.-Canadian team that has spent the past few years answering that question, and published their findings today in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Dr. Anis is a Professor in the School of Population and Public Health, where he is Director of the Health Administration Program and Co-Lead of Health Services and Systems. He also is the Director of the Centre for Health Evaluation and Outcome Sciences, a partnership of the UBC Faculty of Medicine and the Providence Health Care Research Institute.
Why did you and your collaborators to take this on?
Biologics have been touted as the latest and greatest treatment for rheumatoid arthritis because they are based on human DNA. Many doctors have started prescribing them if the first-line drug, methotrexate, known as a Disease Modifying Anti-rheumatic Drug , doesnt work. To control costs, many jurisdictions, including B.C., recommend that physicians try methotrexate and at least one other DMARD before they start prescribing biologics.
How did you answer that question?
What did you find?
How much money could be saved if these findings are followed?
The Development Of Generic Equivalents
Four RA drugs – Humira, Enbrel, Remicade, and Rituxan are among the top selling biologics in the United States .5 And these biologics will loose their patent protection soon. This is the reason that so-called “biosimilars“, generic equivalents for biologics, are being developed and will soon be approved for patient use.
The real cost of Rituxan isnt a mystery that I will likely solve any time soon. There are numerous pharmaceutical, insurance, healthcare system, and political players involved. But one has to avoid skepticism driving you to not take prescribed medicines that can help slow the disease progression. While issues of costs and insurance reimbursements need to be addressed, right now Im just thankful for a medicine to treat RA, insurance coverage, and co-pay coverage by the pharmaceutical company.
Don’t Miss: Inflammatory Polyarthritis Symptoms
How To Save On Enbrel
You can save money on Enbrel in these three ways.
1) Save with a manufacturer savings card from Amgen. People with commercial insurance can take part in a discount program sponsored by Amgen, the maker of Enbrel. The program provides 6 months supply for free. After that, it lowers your copay to $10 a month. GoodRx has partnered with Amgen to make it easier to check your eligibility and enroll in the program. Here are the details of the program.
Enbrel Co-Pay Card
|How much can I save?||New patients get a 6-month supply of Enbrel at no cost. After that, insured patients can pay as little as $10 per month. The card expires at the end of the calendar year but can be renewed.|
|How do I get the discount?||Call for information.|
|Are there any restrictions?||This copay assistance program is available only to people who have commercial insurance. People covered by Medicare are not eligible.|
2) Apply for Amgens patient assistance program. If you have no health insurance or your income is limited, you may qualify for up to 1 years supply of medication at no charge. Youll need your doctor to help you fill out the program application.
The Safety Net Foundation
Types Of Biologics For Treating Ra
Biologics are a newer type of DMARD and have greatly improved treatment outcomes for people with RA. They work by blocking the activity of key proteins involved in inflammation. Biologics target specific parts of the immune system.
While biologics are not a cure for RA, they can slow down the diseases progression. Biologics also cause fewer side effects than other RA therapies.
Your doctor might prescribe a biologic with or in place of methotrexate or another antirheumatic. Taking a biologic with methotrexate is helpful and effective for many people with RA.
|Biologics for Rheumatoid Arthritis|
|T-cell||Intravenous infusion and subcutaneous injection|
There are different types of biologics used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Your rheumatologist is in the best position to advise you on whether you might benefit from biologic treatment and which biologic might best help. In general, these drugs are prescribed to people with moderate to severe RA.
They are also prescribed for people for whom other treatments havent worked or who cant take other treatments because of side effects or some other reason.
The types of biologics prescribed to people with RA include B-cell inhibitors, TNF inhibitors, interleukin inhibitors, and T-cell inhibitors.
Read Also: Peanuts And Arthritis
Are There Alternative Drugs In The Class
If youre paying out of pocket, Enbrel will cost you less than another popular arthritis drug, Humira, but more than several other TNF blockers Avsola, Remicade, Inflectra, Renflexis, Cimzia, and Simponi. Talk to your healthcare provider about how you might bring your medication costs down by using one of these instead of Enbrel.
,, and are all versions of the same drug, infliximab. These are TNF blockers in the same general class of drug as Enbrel, but their retail prices may be much lower. They treat Crohns disease, ulcerative colitis, AS, plaque psoriasis, and some forms of arthritis.
is fairly expensive but less so than Enbrel. Doctors prescribe it for RA, PA, and AS, among other diseases.
is another drug in this class that people take for RA, PA, AS, and polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis. It also treats ulcerative colitis.
How Much Does Enbrel Cost And Why Is It So Expensive
Enbrel is expensive because it is a specialty drug. Specialty drugs are complex medicines that cost their manufacturers a lot to research and develop and are priced with that in mind. There is currently no generic version of Enbrel on the market.
You can only get Enbrel from a specialty pharmacy. It comes in 50 mg cartridges or syringes, including prefilled autoinjectors, and 25 mg vials or syringes. Enbrels lowest price with a GoodRx coupon was $5,809 for a carton of four 50 mg mini cartridges. Thats 39% off the average retail price of $9,513).
Also Check: Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain Relief
Are There Safety Warnings For Users Of Enbrel
Yes. Enbrel comes with various safety warnings. The most common side effects are infections and injection-site reactions. Other side effects of Enbrel include serious infections especially with patients who are also taking immunosuppressants like methotrexate or corticosteroids and cancers such as lymphoma. People with active infections should not take Enbrel.
Other side effects that can occur with Enbrel include:
Congestive heart failure
Reactivation of hepatitis B virus
Anaphylaxis or serious allergic reactions
Lupus-like syndrome or autoimmune hepatitis
Treatment And Monitoring Costs In Rheumatoid Arthritis: Preliminary Results From An Indian Setting
Department of Pharmacy Practice, National Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Education, S. A. S. Nagar – 160 062, India1Department of Internal Medicine, Government Medical College and Hospital, Sector 32, Chandigarh – 160 032, India.
- *Corresponding Author:
- Pramil TiwariDepartment of Pharmacy Practice, National Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Education, S. A. S. Nagar – 160 062, India
|Indian J Pharm Sci, 2007, 69 : 226-231|
Read Also: Is Ra Painful
What To Know About Enbrel
Enbrel is a biologic drug, so called because its made from living cells. It was approved by the FDA in 1998 as the first targeted biologic drug to treat RA. Biologic drugs for diseases like RA and PA target the inflammatory process. Some patients who take Enbrel also take methotrexate, an older arthritis drug.
In 2002, the FDA approved Enbrel for treatment of psoriatic arthritis. In 2005, the agency expanded its approval to include conditions like PA, AS, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, and moderate to severe plaque psoriasis.
When Will Enbrel Be Available In Generic Form
There is no generic version of Enbrel on the market now. Some biosimilar alternatives have been approved in the last few years. These biosimilars, Erelzi and Eticovo, may end up being around 15% to 30% less expensive than Enbrel. They should come to market after patent issues are resolved. The timing for that is uncertain, but pharma industry executives say that Erelzi likely wont be available in the U.S. until 2029.
Read Also: Ways To Relieve Arthritis Pain In Hands