Rising Rx costs force Arizonans to Mexico; industry expert says more competition needed to stem costs

Are rising prescription drug costs forcing Arizonans to flock to Mexico to get their medicine?

KYMA-TV News in Yuma, AZ recently featured a report about local residents traveling to Algodones, Mexico to purchase lower-cost prescription drugs.

An IMS Health study released last year found that prescription drug spending in the U.S. rose 13% to $374 billion in 2014.

What can be done to provide prescription drug cost relief for Arizona consumers?

"The single best way to reduce prescription drug prices is to introduce competition in the marketplace,” Mark Merritt, president of the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association told Arizona Business Daily. “However, competition is lacking among older, off-patent drugs that treat small populations.”

According to Merritt, one problem is the backlog of nearly 4,000 generic drug applications before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Currently, he said, FDA review takes more than three years, and he suggested the agency should speed its approval time.

Merritt also suggested creating an “abbreviated new drug application fast track” for generic drugs that compete with off-patent brands. This, he said would “create incentive for them to enter those markets” and spur more competition.

Finally, he said the government should create a list of off-patent drugs that face no competition.

The current lack of competition has led to “unlimited pricing power and higher profits for certain drug manufacturers,” added Merritt.

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