Living Below Your Means
Stupid Drug Rebranding

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By LudditeAndroid
January 20, 2009

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Bear with me, this is a long one. I'm going to be mentioning 4 drugs this time: Trilipix (Tricor), Solodyn, Keppra XR, and Simcor.

I'll start with the Keppra and Simcor before moving on to a huge rant about Tricor / Trilipix.

Regular Keppra is generic now, so of course they just released an extended release version with a new patent and a higher price. It's completely AMAZING that they just found this AMAZING breakthrough in AMAZING epileptic care right when the original version went generic. Let me just ask a really stupid question: if Keppra XR is really better than generic Keppra, why didn't they release it sooner? Does UBC (makers of Keppra) love money more than they care about epileptic human beings, or is this just a ploy for more money on a drug that's not a significant improvement?

Simcor has been out quite awhile. Thankfully we hardly ever see a prescription for it because IT'S STUPID. It's simvastatin and extended-release niacin. Simvastatin is the generic for Zocor. Niacin is OTC. Both are cheap, yet Simcor is really expensive. Well a drug rep must have been going around about it lately because we had a doctor write for it recently. The patient specifically told this doctor, "I don't have prescription coverage. If you're writing for a cholesterol drug I need something really cheap or I can't afford to fill it." So what did the doctor do? He told the patient he was writing for the "cheapest" cholesterol drug and wrote for Simcor. Why do doctors listen to drug reps when they quote a (wrong) price on a drug or talk about glowing studies their own employer bought and paid for? Skepticism would be nice, doc. Call the pharmacist and ask them what's really up. At least most of our doctors around here are cynical about drug reps and are far more aware of drug costs than they used to be. An expensive therapy is a therapy that often won't be complied with. Simple as that.

Anyway, the cash price on 30 Simcor for this patient would be about $175. Per month. Generic zocor and over-the-counter niacin? Less than $20. And the generic zocor can be split in halves to save money if you're not on the highest strength. We had to play phone tag with the doctor to try to get the prescription changed. Oddly enough, the patient didn't want to pay almost 2 grand a year extra so he could take one pill instead of two pills.

I really dislike the fact that "me too" drugs like Simcor even exist. The FDA doesn't have the power to decline an NDA (new drug application) on the grounds that "this is a stupid idea", but sometimes I wish they did. In fact, they could hire me to be the one who gets to call up a drug company CEO and laugh, "Are you kidding me with this? HELL NO it ain't approved. Now get out of my office, even though it's really your office since we're talking on the phone. I said good day sir!"

Simcor is made by Abbott, by the way, and that brings me to another Abbott drug, Trilipix, which is the new Tricor, which was the old Tricor and then the old Tricor before that. You read that right; Abbott has rebranded the same drug at least four times now. And doctors still write for the "new" one. ARRRRGH. How is this even legal? Here's what I posted about Tricor back in 2005:

Tricor 200 was repackaged as Tricor 160 then replaced with Tricor 145. Tricor 80 became Tricor 54 then Tricor 48. Every time the patent was about to expire, they reformulated the exact same drug into pills that would dissolve better so they could package a "new" drug with a lower standard dose. Then they pulled the higher strength pill completely off the market before the patent expired (meaning no generic legally made yet). This left doctors with no choice but to either switch to the new one or switch the patient to another drug altogether. All so the [fatherless hooligans] at the Abbott drug company could strong-arm more money out of people.

Well, big surprise, Abbott has done it again. There is generic Tricor 145 sitting on our shelf now, so that's old news, baby. The new hotness is Trilipix. Its a delayed release capsule in 45 mg and 135 mg and it's freaking expensive, which means it must be good. It's well over $1 per pill for the 45 mg and almost $4 per pill for the 135 mg. If a doctor tries to write a prescription for Trilipix for you, do me a favor and kick him or her down an up escalator. Doctors need to just grow a pair and say, "I'm not going to write for this drug because IT'S STUPID and it should not exist."

There are millions of people in this country who cannot afford drug coverage because stupid rebranded drugs are driving up the prices WITHOUT IMPROVING PATIENT CARE. This is stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid. Did I mention it's stupid? Because it is.