A painkiller that cost $138 a bottle less than five years ago now hovers at close to $3,000—the latest price hike to put the pharmaceutical industry in the spotlight. CNNMoney reports Horizon Pharma's latest increase on Vimovo, which has seen nearly a dozen such rate rises since Horizon acquired it from AstraZeneca in 2013, amounts to a 9.9% increase on a 60-pill bottle, making the wholesale price $2,979. The high cost of the med—which FiercePharma explains is prescribed to help ease symptoms from certain forms of arthritis and to prevent gastric ulcers—is also raising eyebrows because its two main ingredients, naproxen (sold as the Aleve brand) and esomeprazole (commonly sold as Nexium), are sold separately for under $40.
"Based on the mechanism of action of these drugs, I see no reason why these products can't be taken individually," the CEO of a company that makes software to help ease drug payments tells the Irish Times. Horizon Pharma disagrees: It says taking the meds separately isn't the same as taking the combo pill; it adds there's no generic or OTC version of Vimovo. The company also pushes back on the steep price, noting it has rebates that allow all but 2% of insured patients to get the drug for less than $10 out of their own wallet. However, analysts say the price hike ends up raising insurance prices overall. It also underlies the murkiness of what happens when drug prices rise, as no one's really sure who's making money off the deal; besides the manufacturer, insurers and pharmacy benefit managers are also in the mix. (Walmart has a plan for your leftover opioids.)