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Prices Climb as Much as 15% for Some Painkillers

From Reuters

Prices for dozens of prescription painkillers have jumped by as much as 15% since Merck & Co. pulled its once-popular arthritis drug Vioxx from the market last year, a report released Thursday found.

Thirty-six pain medicines, including Mobic, Motrin and Relafen, saw price increases after studies linked Vioxx to heart problems and led to its withdrawal in September, according to the Consumers Union publication “Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs.”

The number of prescriptions for many of the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, also increased, the consumer group said.

Consumers Union’s findings come weeks after the Food and Drug Administration called on Pfizer Inc. to pull its rival drug Bextra over similar heart problems and the added risk of a fatal skin condition.

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Vioxx, Bextra and Pfizer’s other pain drug Celebrex are a type of NSAID known as Cox-2 drugs that are thought to be easier on the stomach than older counterparts such as naproxen and ibuprofen.

The report, which analyzed data from healthcare information firm NDCIHealth, also found that 17 drugs dropped in price while 10 remained flat. It did not evaluate over-the-counter pain medicines.

Since Vioxx’s withdrawal, prices for prescription-strength Motrin, the ibuprofen marketed by Johnson & Johnson’s unit McNeil-PPC, rose 13.3%.

Higher doses of Mobic, manufactured by privately held Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals and distributed in the United States by Abbott Laboratories, jumped 10.6% while lower doses were up 6.7%.

Consumers Union’s Steven Findlay, who wrote the analysis, said Boehringer’s advertising showed the power of marketing and its effect on drug prices.

“Doctors and consumers are unquestionably swayed by the ads and promotions for costly new medicines, even when lower-cost options that are just as effective are available,” he said.


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