Price increase for generic drug used to treat asthma

COLUMBIA, Mo. - A generic drug that millions of people use to help them breathe is increasing significantly in price.

Patients used to get albuterol tablets from pharmacies for a couple of dollars for a monthly prescription.

Now it is costing them more than $900, and that is with insurance. Albuterol is also the generic form, so there is not a cheaper alternative.

Billy Ferris was just prescribed albuterol tablets for his asthma and a case of pneumonia that he is recovering from. Even his pharmacist was surprised by the huge price increase.

"She looked at it and went, 'Oh!', and said, 'that will be $900,'" said Ferris.

It's a price point that he cannot afford even though it's the doctor's order.

"I won't take it. I'll just do without. And what it will do, time will tell,"said Ferris.

Pharmacists tell ABC 17 News they, too, do not know the exact reason for this increase in price.

"It went up thirtyfold, so it costs us 30 times what it cost us in March, and we haven't been given a good explanation from the two manufacturers that make the product," said pharmacist Bill Morrissey.

However, having two makers for this drug could very well be the problem.

"There are not a lot of manufacturers that want to make the tablets, and since there is a small number of suppliers for it, they have a little more control where they set their prices," said Morrissey.

Even though these tablets are skyrocketing in price, the inhalers and nebulizer versions of the medication have not changed in price. Pharmacists tell ABC 17 that they do not expect them to change either.

It is important to note that the prices increase has nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act, which was implemented Oct. 1. The jump in price occurred before Monday's registration date.

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