Over the past few years there has been a substantial amount of improvement when it comes to the type of seizure treatments available as well as the quality of these treatments. This is also true of anti-seizure medications on the market today. These newer medications can help a large number of people, and they tend to be more effective than the treatments of the past.
However, one of the drawbacks to antiepileptic drugs or AEDs is the fact they have a very high price associated with them. This has caused many sufferers to feel financially burdened because of their epilepsy.
The High Cost of Epilepsy
In 2010, Epilepsy Advocate Magazine listed some financial figures on epilepsy, and the numbers were astounding. The epilepsy-related expenses that year in the United States alone were around $15.5 billion. This includes more than just anti-seizure medications; it also includes all of the other medical expenditures as well.
Visiting the emergency room for epilepsy related reasons cost an average of $707. The average annual cost for those who have uncontrolled epilepsy and who make a number of visits to the ER is $33,006. For someone who is admitted to the hospital in the United States and who has epilepsy, the average cost is $1,800 per day. There are also lost wages to factor into this account, as well as the cost of the anti-seizure medications and anticonvulsants.
Costs continue to escalate. According to Truveris, a health-care data company that tracks drug prices, the cost of all medications increased by over ten percent between 2014 and 2015, an increase well beyond the cost of living. “We’re in our third year of double-digit [increases],” said A.J. Loiacono, the firm’s chief innovation officer, adding that the increases occurred across virtually every drug category. “Double-digit inflation is concerning. I don’t care if it’s for gas or food; it’s rare.”
Why have drug prices go up? According to a fascinating Washington Post opinion about drug companies: Because they can. Recent news about the dramatic price increase of the EpiPen® is another example of 'because they can' pricing.
The High Cost of Anti-Seizure Medications
AED prices are affected by many factors including health insurance, discount cards, brand names, availability, if the drug is new or established and whether the pharmacy is part of a large chain or an independent store. Let’s look at the cost of four of the most common anticonvulsants (as of July, 2016):
- Carbamazepine costs $130 for 60 200 mg tablets. Those who go with the generic option are able to save some money, as they can get the same amount of a generic version for $70.
- Valproic acid (Depakene) costs around $240 for 90 250 milligram tablets, while the generic version is $51 for the same amount. Valproic acid (Depakote) is $350 for 90 500 mg tablets of the brand-name version. The generic version is $75 for the same amount.
- Eslicarbamazepine currently only has the brand-name version, Aptiom, and the price for this is $800 for 30 400 mg tablets.
- Carbamazepine, under the brand-name version of Tegretol, cost $127 for 60 200 mg tablets. The generic version of the drug is $67 for 60 200 mg tablets.
That’s a lot of money. Taking generic drugs is one way to save quite a bit of money, but here are caveats with that. Although generic drugs are a good way to save money, the formularies are often not as effective or consistent as the name brands. What may work for one person could set off a seizure in another.
To learn more about substituting generic drugs for name brand anticonvulsants read our blog, "Can I Substitute Generic Drugs for My Anti-Seizure Medications?".
Some people may need help paying for their medications and it may be possible to qualify for a patient assistance program that can lower the amount you have to pay for drugs. If you are looking for an assistance program, check here. The smartest thing to do is to always shop around and look for the best price for your medications.
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