Plaquenil shortage and price hike: the saga hits home for Despite Lupus!

Thanks to all of you who have written in or commented about the rising cost of our beloved plaquenil. It's so helpful to compare experiences, and to read about the real costs incurred by real patients across the country. While it doesn't make the price hike any easier to swallow, it is comforting to know that it's not just one pharmacy, insurance company, or region that's affected. It's a nationwide problem, and one that I hope is resolved soon!

It was finally time for me to renew my own plaquenil prescription, and while I was dreading the increase, I was at least prepared for the sticker shock.

Because of the price jump, I knew I wanted to call and speak to a pharmacist about the renewal, rather than just using the automated service. I needed exact dollar amounts, and I wanted to know my options. And in fact, that's exactly what the call yielded.

After explaining the supposed price hike to my pharmacist over the phone (of which she was unaware), we waited for her computer to spit out the numbers. But I didn't have to wait long, as her sudden gasp and empathetic "Oh my gosh" gave away the results. (Somehow, her own shock softened the blow!)

She exclaimed that the price had indeed gone up - unfortunately, my 90-day prescription came to over $450. Last time I renewed (3 short months ago), it was just under $20. Ugh!

I told her I wasn't prepared to pay the $450, and asked if she could run the numbers on a 30-day supply. It came to $159 - still way more than normal, but at least less out of my pocket this month.

In addition, I had my Goodrx coupon ready, and gave her the appropriate codes over the phone. She applied the coupon, and the price dropped from $159 to $116 - a definite savings. I told her we had a deal, though we both agreed it was a sad state of affairs!

So while I didn't emerge completely unscathed, I was able to save a little money, at least for the time being. My doctor was aware of the issue when I mentioned it at my last appointment, but at that point, I didn't have any dollar figures to share. Now that I know the personal impact, I'll be sure to let him know. A $430 increase is too big not to mention!

While I'm hopeful the prices will return to normal soon, here are my recommendations until then:

Recommendation #1:

*Call and speak to a pharmacist to renew. You'll know what to expect before you arrive to pick up your prescription, and you can discuss your options (30 day vs. 90 day, coupons, etc.) with a live person.

Recommendation #2:

*Explore those online coupons (especially GoodRx), and don't be shy about using them. I admit the savings may be minimal or not applicable on some drugs, but you deserve to save as much and as often as you can. Definitely worth the energy to check!

*Recommendation #3:

Mention the price increase to your doctor. Certainly don't expect any financial tips or breaks, and you may just get a simple "Gee, that's too bad." But I always think it's valuable to inform the prescriber of issues like this. It certainly can't hurt!


Aymie said…
Sara, seems like the shortage has made it over here too! I've heard about loads of people being given the generic rather than plaquenil. I haven't noticed a difference, but then considering how much my other meds have been changing recently, I'm not surprised.
Anonymous said…
I switched to the generic as well. It saves a good amount, and I don't think it works as well with skin issues, but I wake up everyday so it must be helping.

Also, I'm in a severely tight budget right now, so I've pretty much backed off taking this daily. It's been a few months, but the effects are slowly creeping back up.

Until we have a more just pharmaceutical system, I just ration as best I can and hope for the best. In the end, God gets to decide when I'm done either way. Before I get flack for that comment, please understand I say in with utmost optimism.
Anonymous said…
I take the generic and that is the drug that is in shortage not the brand name. I went from paying 5 dollars for 60 pills last year to the cost being close to 250.00 and was told the Good Rx coupon wouldn't be good at a few of the pharmacy I called. I even noticed Walmart is no longer on there for a coupon for this area. I couldn't offered this price on going have been without my medication for since February, in which when I had my blood work last week my C4C has dropped below normal range. We have one manufacture making this drug now instead of 4 and they are doing a big supply and demand which is so unfair to people that can't offered this even with insurance.
Tonga said…
I understand and I'm sorry I'm having the same problem with lyrica and very expensive and I have been out for 3 months because I don't have insurance anymore there are days when I can't even get out of bed a 30 day supply is almost $400 and of course there is no generic so I understand I'm not sure what we could possibly do about this situation but if you get a resolution please share and if I get one I will definitely share as well.
Anonymous said…
Just picked up my 30 day supply (generic) from Walgreens and thank goodness for my insurance! Pharmacy price was $273 and I only had to pay my $5 copay! Add that to my immunosuppressant and prednisone and what could've been a grand total of $400 cost me $13. I'll take today as a win.
Anonymous said…
Well, its nice to know that it just isn't my area that is having a shortage and cost increase. I have been taking the generic and the cost went from $40.00 to $171.00 per month. That's with my insurance. I have had to not take it as prescribed... 2 a day.... to either 1 a day or skipping a day. I just cant afford $171.00 per month. One day at a time. Right?
Betty said…
There was a shortage here for the generic plaquenil and I had to get the name brand. Now it seems its back to normal. Ive been taking generic one for 15 years now and never had a problem with it. But it does look different than it did before.
Sara Gorman said…
Nomal is good! Hope it stays that way. Mine has gone up, but hasn't continued to I:m at least happy about that. Thanks for sharing!
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dmnarayana said…
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