Doctors Selling Drugs Available for Less at Pharmacies
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Doctors who sell medications out of their offices are adding millions of dollars a year to the country’s ballooning healthcare bill.
With the help of middlemen and drug distributors, physicians have opened up mini pharmacies allowing them to dispense pills and other items to patients instead of sending them to local pharmacies.
The result has been huge markups in drug prices. For instance, the heartburn remedy Zantac, which costs about 35 cents a pill at drugstores, goes for $3.25 a pill in doctors’ offices. The muscle relaxant Soma, normally 60 cents per pill at a CVS, can go for $3.33 if sold by a physician.
Most of the time it’s insurance companies absorbing this cost. But this raises insurers’ costs, and can mean higher premiums for everyone.
Some states, including California, have stepped in to regulate the problem, and others, including Florida, Hawaii, and Maryland, are trying. In Florida, Republican state Senator Alan Hays introduced a bill to prohibit physicians from dispensing pills. The legislation died after Automated HealthCare, a leader in physician dispensing, lobbied hard against it.
“I consider the fees that these people are charging to be immoral,” Hays told The New York Times. “They’re legal under the current law, but they’re immoral.”
Insurers Pay Big Markups as Doctors Dispense Drugs (by Barry Meier and Katie Thomas, New York Times)
New Regulation Limit the Prices Paid for Doctor-Dispensed RX and Reduce Costs, But Unlikely to Reduce Patient Access (Workers Compensation Research Institute)
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