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Drug makers go to great lengths to keep you from getting access to a cheaper generic

Generic drugs costA study from Oregon State University and Oregon Health & Science University found that generic versions of brand-name medications have not made a huge dent in drug price inflation yet.

Researchers looked specifically at multiple sclerosis treatments and found a common practice among drug makers as the cause. Shortly before a generic drug can be sold, the manufacturer of a branded product often tweaks the formulation to extend its market exclusivity and postpone a consumer’s switch to a cheaper generic.

Dan Hartung, associate professor at the OHSU/OSU College of Pharmacy, and Dr. Dennis Bourdette, professor emeritus of neurology at OHSU, focused on the brand-name drug Copaxone.

Copaxone, produced by Teva, was the market leader for MS drugs at the time of the study and accounted for a large share of Teva’s revenue. The cost for Copaxone subcutaneous solution (20 mg/mL) is around $7,437 for a supply of 30 milliliters, depending on the pharmacy you visit, according to Drugs.com.

“I was surprised at the extent to which they were able to shift market share in the year and a half before the release of the generic,” Hartung said in an article from the Portland Business Journal. “It blunted the effect in terms of generic getting a foothold in the market.”

Teva changed the injectable dose from 20 milligrams daily to 40 milligrams that could be administered less often. This extended the time period that consumers used their product to treat their condition and postponed any immediate impact on prices the cheaper generics could have.

If you saw small changes to your brand-name drug before a generic was released, share your story with Voices for Affordable Health.