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Sex Health Drugs are Expensive. What Can Consumers Do?

Sex Health Drugs are Expensive. What Can Consumers Do? Are prescription drug prices too high in the United States?

If you said yes, you’re in good company. In a recent survey by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 79% of respondents said they thought drug costs were “unreasonable.” Just 17% thought prices were “reasonable.”

The 1,440 respondents answered the survey questions by telephone over a ten-day period in February. Forty-two percent of the respondents were age 65 or older.

Almost a quarter of the people who took prescription drugs said they had difficulty paying for them.

Affording medications for sex health issues can be particularly troublesome. Many drugs are not covered by insurance plans or Medicare, so some consumers pay out of pocket or just don’t take the drug at all because of costs.

In December 2018 a Journal of Sexual Medicine study reported that, depending on the type of pharmacy dispensing the medication, a prescription for sildenafil [the active ingredient in the erectile dysfunction (ED) drug Viagra] could cost anywhere from $48 to $500. (See more details about the study, along with price ranges for other ED drugs, here.)

Addyi, a drug for women with hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) had a price cut last year, from $800 to $400 for a monthly prescription, according to Bloomberg. The price was further lowered to $99 for women without insurance coverage, but even that cost could be beyond the reach of the average consumer.

While generics usually cost less, they can still be quite expensive.

Why do prescriptions cost so much? Drug manufacturers set their own prices and raise them regularly, experts say, because rules in the United States allow it. High demand can drive up the prices. Patent rules and complex negotiations between drug manufacturers and insurers are also involved with pricing.

Lowering drug costs may seem daunting, there are steps consumers can take to get keep more money their wallet:

  • Ask your doctor if there are non-drug alternatives. For example, men with erectile dysfunction might see their erections improve by managing related health conditions, like diabetes and heart disease.
  • Ask about generics. These drugs are usually less expensive.
  • Ask your health insurance company whether certain drugs can be purchased with lower copays. You might also ask if you can save money by ordering prescriptions by mail or through a preferred pharmacy.
  • Contact the drug manufacturer and ask about special programs for consumers who cannot afford their medication. Some companies offer coupons and discounts. (Your pharmacist might have this information, too.)
  • Check with your state government to see if there are any pharmaceutical assistance programs available to you.

Resources

AARP.com

“5 Ways to Lower Drug Costs”

(April 21, 2017)

https://www.aarp.org/health/drugs-supplements/info-2017/lower-rx-prices-drug-costs.html

“How to Pay Less for Drugs”

(April 21, 2017)

https://www.aarp.org/health/drugs-supplements/info-2017/pay-less-drugs-rx.html

“Why Our Drugs Cost So Much”

(May 1, 2017)

https://www.aarp.org/health/drugs-supplements/info-2017/rx-prescription-drug-pricing.html

Bloomberg.com

Koons, Cynthia

“Drugmaker Revives Female Libido Pill at Half the Price”

(June 11, 2018)

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-06-11/drugmaker-revives-female-libido-pill-addyi-at-half-the-price

CNBC.com

Blumberg, Yoni

“Here’s why many prescription drugs in the US cost so much—and it’s not innovation or improvement”

(January 14, 2019)

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/01/10/why-prescription-drugs-in-the-us-cost-so-much.html

Health Affairs

Hernandez, Immaculada, et al.

“The Contribution Of New Product Entry Versus Existing Product Inflation In The Rising Costs Of Drugs”

(January 2019)

https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/full/10.1377/hlthaff.2018.05147

The Journal of Sexual Medicine

Mishra, Kirtishri, MD, et al.

“Variability in Prices for Erectile Dysfunction Medications—Are All Pharmacies the Same?”

(Full-text. December 2018)

https://www.jsm.jsexmed.org/article/S1743-6095(18)31262-1/fulltext

Kaiser Health News

Andrews, Michelle

“The High Cost Of Sex: Insurers Often Don’t Pay For Drugs To Treat Problems”

(February 19, 2019)

https://khn.org/news/the-high-cost-of-sex-insurers-often-dont-pay-for-drugs-to-treat-problems/

KFF.org

Kirzinger, Ashley, et al.

“KFF Health Tracking Poll – February 2019: Prescription Drugs”

(March 1, 2019)

https://www.kff.org/health-reform/poll-finding/kff-health-tracking-poll-february-2019-prescription-drugs/?utm_campaign=KFF-2019-February-Poll-High-Prescription-Drug-Prices&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=2&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-8LzrhASGyJ3Vy-Nx24NHe8KZQ0ZHCfPfHaWaMtAHyNgIPHeTx0pD0pmtki-0Zs865Ek8xC5sRJYdwI4WdUe00240oLUA&_hsmi=2

“Poll: Nearly 1 in 4 Americans Taking Prescription Drugs Say It’s Difficult to Afford Their Medicines, including Larger Shares Among Those with Health Issues, with Low Incomes and Nearing Medicare Age”

(Press release. March 1, 2019)

https://www.kff.org/health-costs/press-release/poll-nearly-1-in-4-americans-taking-prescription-drugs-say-its-difficult-to-afford-medicines-including-larger-shares-with-low-incomes/

SexHealthMatters.org

“Does Medicare Cover Erectile Dysfunction Treatments?”

(October 8, 2018)

https://www.sexhealthmatters.org/sex-health-blog/does-medicare-cover-erectile-dysfunction-treatments

“For Erectile Dysfunction Drugs, It Pays to Shop Around”

https://www.sexhealthmatters.org/did-you-know/for-erectile-dysfunction-drugs-it-pays-to-shop-around