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Antiviral Tamiflu drug price varies widely

November 18, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
With people so concerned about both Swine Flu and seasonal flu, there is a huge demand for the antiviral drug Tamiflu. That has caused the price of Tamiflu to skyrocket.It's the same medicine, but depending on where you buy it can cost you a lot more, even triple the price. There is a shortage in the liquid form of Tamiflu used by children, and the prices are fluctuating.

"The cash price usually is around $100, or $90 with a discount," said pharmacist Fred Goodman.

Tamiflu capsules are faster to produce and some pharmacies make their own liquid version for children by mixing the capsules with a syrup or by compounding.

"There are some unscrupulous pharmacists of course trying to take advantage of it," said Goodman. "We had an instance where a compounded prescription was needed for a child, and a pharmacy wanted to charge them a compounding fee, that, unfortunately, it is time that the pharmacist takes, but it's not something that an insurance company is paying for at this time."

The prices vary greatly from state to state. In Pennsylvania it's about $49 to $94. In Louisiana it's $43 to $110. In California it's a bit higher, from $55 to $130.

Several L.A.-area stores' prices were surveyed. At Costco it's $89 for the capsules; at Walgreens, $95; and at CVS, $110. At Capitol Drugs in West Hollywood it's about $100.

Since there is no generic equivalent to Tamiflu, some insurance companies were covering very little of the cost.

"We're seeing more and more insurance companies covering it with just a co-pay of anywhere from $25 to $35," said Goodman. "Where they maybe previously in the past, not seeing the urgency or the need, now they see the urgency and the need."

Because of the very different prices, some states are investigating to see if there is any price-gouging. Connecticut and Mississippi confirm they are looking to see if anyone is overcharging for Tamiflu.


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