Health & Family

People’s Pharmacy: Soaring generic drug prices squeeze patients

Q: Has anyone done some investigative journalism to expose why several generic medication prices have skyrocketed? My clobetasol ointment has gone up 300 percent during the past year. My understanding is that there has been consolidation of companies that manufacture generics. The supply chain is getting narrower. Higher prices are squeezing many insurance programs as well as individuals.

A: . Generic drugs are supposed to be affordable, but in the past few years we have seen extraordinary price jumps for some very old medications. Digoxin is a heart drug first sold in 1939. Last year, one person purchased a three-month supply for $12. Today, it’s $99.99 at a major pharmacy chain. That is just the tip of the iceberg. Another generic that has skyrocketed is the antibiotic doxycycline. An article in The New England Journal of Medicine (Nov. 13, 2014) documented a 2,800 percent increase in the blood-pressure drug captopril between 2012 and 2013. It appears that consolidation of generic manufacturers is in large part responsible for decreased competition and higher prices.

Preventing memory loss

Q: What drugs should someone avoid to prevent memory loss? Are there any drugs that might help?

A: There’s a surprising number of medications that appear to cause confusion and forgetfulness and may even increase the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Sleeping pills and benzodiazepine anti-anxiety drugs are worrisome in this regard.

Anticholinergic medications such as those for overactive bladder or used over the counter to treat allergy symptoms or insomnia can affect cognitive function (JAMA Internal Medicine, March 2015).

Exciting new research suggests that an epilepsy drug, levetiracetam, may offer hope for people with the first signs of memory loss (NeuroImage: Clinical online, Feb. 21, 2015).

Afrin vs. Flonase

Q: I have been using Afrin Nasal Decongestant Spray for two decades. I finally got off it by using Flonase and diluting the last bottle of Afrin with saline. It took about a week, and though I am still a little stuffy, I am so glad to be off the decongestant.

A: Thank you for sharing your success. Flonase is a corticosteroid nasal spray that has recently become available over the counter. It can be helpful in the weaning process. It also is useful in controlling nasal allergy symptoms. Side effects may include headache, nosebleeds, nausea, cough and oral yeast infections.

Reach Joe and Terry Graedon at