Just to recap how we got here: Back in February, I shared information that the LFA issued regarding a shortage of hydroxychloroquine (the generic for Plaquenil). This shortage was causing a price spike that affected many of us. It took until May for the increase to hit home for me, which you can read about here, but like so many of you who took the time to comment, it was no small increase. My monthly prescription went from $10/month to $160/month, and that was with insurance. Yikes! My prescription is written as a 90-day supply, but it was too costly to plunk down a chunk of money like that. Instead, I opted to go with one month supplies, and utilized a GoodRx coupon to save as much I could. I was still paying almost $120/month. (You can read my glowing post about GoodRx and other drug cost saving services here.)
As I was researching the reasons behind the shortages, I discovered the following updates to the ASHP (American Society of Health-System Pharmacists) website. If you want drug shortage information - the ASHP is the place to go!
Here's what it says when you search for Plaquenil (you see below that it mentions the manufacturers of both Plaquenil and the generic Hydroxychlorquine):
Reason for the Shortage:
Concordia acquired Plaquenil tablets from Covis in April 2015.
Ranbaxy has hydroxychloroquine on shortage due to a regulatory issue.
Sandoz states the hydroxychloroquine shortage is due to increased demand.
Zydus could not provide a reason for hydroxychloroquine shortage.
West-Ward discontinued hydroxychloroquine tablets in September 2014.
Here's the direct link if you want to check out the page yourself.
Now for the good news. I just refilled my prescription - and it was only $30/month. $30!!!! Could it be? Is the tide beginning to turn? Let's hope so!
This is the first month since May that the price has been less than about $120, so you can imagine my relief when I was quoted the price. As I blogged about before, I've taken up the practice of calling and speaking directly with the pharmacist to renew, so I know how to renew (30 or 90 day), and what form of payment to use (i.e. "the good card"). So when I was quoted $30, I was thrilled!
Note: I was actually tipped off by GoodRx. When I got ready to renew the prescription, I looked on their website and it said that Walgreens could refill my plaquenil prescription for $30. At the time, my beloved Costco, (who has saved me bundles in the last few years between Cellcept and Plaquenil) still listed the renewal price of $116. So I called Walgreens, and asked how I could transfer my prescription. They explained the process (that they would call and get the prescription from Costco) but suggested that I first call Costco to confirm that their price was indeed higher. While they wanted my business, they wanted to save me the trouble if the Costco pricing was competitive. So I called Costco, and that's when I got the good news: my prescription could be refilled for the reasonable price of $30/month there, too. Woohoo!
While I should have taken advantage of the price break (which I hope is here to stay), I didn't think to refill my prescription for the full 90 days. I'm in the habit of renewing monthly to save money, so my fingers are seriously crossed that the lower pricing sticks around, and that we begin to see it across the board and around the world.
As a bit of an aside, here's an interesting article I found about why and how anti-malarials, like Plaquenil, work for lupus patients. Pretty great stuff. Let's just hope it becomes affordable again, and for good!