facebook Two prescription gels to ease pain. One costs $3,615 and the other $21.

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Two prescription gels to ease pain & promote healing.
One costs $3,615 and the other $21. Unbelievable but true.

picture of someone rubbing a medical cream on their handSome of us have shelled out big bucks for a department store wrinkle cream only to find it doesn’t work any better than the far less expensive cream we buy at the grocery store.

Well, imagine spending $3,600 for a prescription cream to treat a wound or scar only to learn the ingredients are about the same in a cream that costs $21.

Apparently, it happens more often than we think. A report from OptumRx, a pharmacy services company, finds that Americans spend about $25 billion each year for wound-dressing products used to treat burns, scars, and stitches.

Prescription treatments can cost as much as 125 times more than generic equivalents that are usually sold over the counter. For example, the report calls out the Sil-K Pad, a silicon pad used to treat scars, which carries a hefty price tag of $5,499. Similar over-the-counter versions run about $44.

In another example, Foraxa Gel, used to soothe pain and promote healing, can cost $3,615 a tube. Meanwhile Regenecare Gel, a medication also prescribed for pain and healing – and with the same ingredients — costs $21.

“The existence of these products is not new,” Savitha Vivian, senior vice president of clinical and formulary services at OptumRx, told the industry journal Fierce Healthcare. “I think what’s new is that there are more and more of these (pricey topical medications) coming to market.”

The report notes that prescribing physicians may be unaware of these products’ costs, placing the consumer’s responsibility to speak up.

Have you spent a bundle for a wound-care gel, lotion, or cream? Share your story with Voices for Affordable Health here.