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Crohn’s and Colitis Drugs are Expensive: Here’s How to Lower Your Costs

September 8, 2020

high drug prices

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) has been on the rise in the United States. Approximately 1.6 million Americans suffer from either Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, both of which are categorized as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Like many chronic health problems, Americans living in poverty or facing other forms of economic hardship have a higher risk of developing IBD.

To make matters worse, Crohn's and colitis medications can be prohibitively expensive for American consumers. Expensive medications are a problem for millions of Americans, but individuals and families already facing economic hardships face even harsher burdens and consequences when the medications they need for IBD and other chronic illnesses are too expensive, or completely unaffordable.

The Medications Most Commonly Prescribed to Treat Crohn's Disease and Colitis

As a chronic condition Crohn's disease and colitis typically require long term care, making the financial burden of expensive medications even worse for Americans. Inflammatory bowel diseases can also cause quality of life problems and additional health issues which may also require medical treatment and medication including:

  • Chronic constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Food intolerance
  • Malnutrition
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Complications with pregnancy

IBD is a complicated condition that can affect more systems of the body than just the digestive system. Often, those with IBD are on multiple medications — and often, they have to switch medications throughout their life to find one that works effectively for them.

Since IBD is a chronic condition, the goal is not to "cure" the person, but rather to introduce remission. Remission is a state where the symptoms of the disease are either mild or nonexistent — although there's an understanding that it could come back at any time.

The Cost of Pentasa and Other Brand Name Mesalamine Prescriptions

Here is an example of some of the most commonly prescribed IBD drugs and what they typically cost:

Pentasa (Mesalamine) is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug prescribed for people suffering from ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease (often of the terminal ileum). (Other brand name versions of mesalamine include Delzicol, Apriso, Lialda, Asacol, Rowasa, and Canasa).

Like many prescription medications in the United States, the cost of a Pentasa prescription can vary wildly depending on a number of factors such as whether you have insurance and prescription drug coverage, coupons and discounts, co-pays, and where you fill your prescriptions, among other factors.

However, even by American standards, the cost of Pentasa in the United States is shockingly high. The estimated retail price for Pentasa can be as high as $1,900 at corporate chain pharmacies like Walgreens. Even with a discount, a prescription for 240 capsules retails for over $1,500.

Pentasa is the most commonly prescribed version of mesalamine, which means that other brand name versions of the drug are even more expensive. Here's a breakdown of the average retail costs of the IBD drugs most commonly prescribed to ease the symptoms of Crohn's Disease and ulcerative colitis in the USA:

  • Delzicol - average cash prices for 180 capsules/400 mg ranges from $600 - $738.53
  • Apriso - average cash price for 120 capsules/.375g is $542.26
  • Asacol - average cash price for 180 tablets/800 mg is $1776.47
  • Canasa - average cash price for 30 suppositories/1000mg is $1222.40
  • Lialda - average cash price for 120 capsules/1.2g is $1182.19

Even with prescription drug coverage, the average person suffering from Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis can expect to spend hundreds of dollars or more out of pocket every month to cover the costs of their prescriptions. According to healthcare industry data, the average American spends at least $1,200 every year on out of pocket prescription drug costs alone. For those with IBD, those costs are much, much higher.

Why do IBD Drugs Cost So Much in the United States?

Prescription drugs tend to be astronomically expensive in the United States for a number of reasons, from lack of government regulation and price controls, to pharmaceutical industry profiteering. In addition to the high cost of IBD medication, people with Crohn's disease and colitis suffer from a number of health and quality of life problems that can make it difficult to work, therefore affecting their earnings as well.

In addition to the cost of medications, Crohn's and colitis sufferers regularly go to the emergency room, urgent care, and the doctor's office for flare ups, which pile on the costs on top of the prescription drug bills. Despite it not being a rare disease, IBD is rarely diagnosed quickly. For over half of IBD patients, it took more than two years to get a diagnosis — and visits to more than 3 separate physicians.

Those costs quickly add up for Americans with IBD.

Likewise, if first-line treatments don't work, often the next step is stronger immunosuppressants and biologics. While biologics are quite literally a lifesaver for many with IBD, they are incredibly expensive. Infliximab, also known as Remicade, is a biologic often used for Crohn's disease — and it can cost $16,000 per month.

Tips for Lowering the Costs of IBD Prescriptions and Medication

For the millions of Americans suffering from chronic health problems like Crohn's and ulcerative colitis, skipping or putting off treatment isn't an option. In fact, many IBD sufferers experience their first flare up in adolescence or early adulthood, requiring long term, lifelong care. If left untreated, IBD flare ups can become more severe and more frequent, with a risk of permanent damage to the bowels. Other possible side effects of untreated IBD include:

  • Inflammation outside of the bowels like the eyes
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Skin problems
  • Arthritis
  • Liver and kidney problems
  • Bone loss
  • Intestinal fistulas and abscesses
  • Greater risk of intestinal cancer

Some people are more susceptible to IBD than others due to factors like genetics and family history, autoimmune disorders that cause inflammation in the digestive system, ethnicity, gender, and even geography.

Likewise, IBD means different things for different people. For some, a first-line treatment like mesalamine will bring them into remission. For others, getting to remission means taking an extremely expensive cocktail of biologics.

While many claim through anecdotal experiences that diet, exercise, and mindfulness can help maintain remission, there's very little scientific evidence to support this. Ultimately, for information on how to manage your IBD, your best bet is to talk to your doctor.

Ask Your Doctor About Generic Prescription Options

Unfortunately, less expensive generic versions of brand name drugs are not always available or even the best option to treat a particular condition. However, there are many generic alternatives available of certain drugs that can be significantly cheaper and just as effective as the brand name version. This is especially important when it comes to chronic illnesses like IBD that require long term care and management.

Even a $50 price difference can add up to significant savings over a single year, especially for the millions of Americans that are already struggling to afford the basics, let alone a medical emergency. Whether you've been newly diagnosed with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis or have been in treatment for years, ask your doctor about all of the options available to you and whether there's a less expensive version of your medication available that will deliver the same results.

Ask About Discounts, Coupons, and Rebates

Many drug companies and pharmacies offer discount coupons and rebate offers for prescription medications that can further reduce your costs. If you're experiencing financial hardship and having difficulty paying for your medication, there may be special programs in place to offer assistance. Contact your insurance company and pharmacy to find out about any discounts or forms of assistance that you may qualify for.

Compared Pharmacies to Find the Lowest Price

Many consumers assume that medications all cost the same thing whether you fill your prescription at a local independent pharmacy, or a big corporate chain like Walgreens, CVS, or Rite Aid. Unfortunately, what you end up paying for your prescriptions varies depending on the pharmacy you choose. To make matters worse, large corporate pharmacies are under enormous pressure to meet increasingly unrealistic revenue goals.

Like any other for-profit business in the American economy, pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens might prioritize making money and keeping shareholders happy over the individual needs of their customers. Though the pharmacists may try their best to meet customer needs and ensure safety and efficiency, many American pharmacies are run more like a Starbucks than a patient-focused pharmacy. In addition to checking for the best prices, always make sure that your prescription is filled correctly and according to your doctor's specifications.

Many corporate pharmacies also try to pressure customers into buying additional refills that they may not need, further adding to the out of pocket costs. If you're not sure about your prescription's refill or dosage requirements, always check with your doctor before paying for the prescription to ensure that you leave the pharmacy with the right medication and that you don't end up overpaying.

Try Using a Canadian Pharmacy

More and more Americans are turning to Canadian pharmacies for more affordable prescription drugs. From heart medication like statins to IBD drugs, Canadian pharmacies can offer a lifeline for the millions of Americans struggling to pay for their medications, or who face difficult choices between paying bills or paying for their prescriptions.

Shopping for medication online can be risky as there are many unlicensed and unscrupulous bad actors selling counterfeit or lower quality drugs, but legitimate online Canadian pharmacies are safe and reliable for American consumers.

What to Look for in an Online Canadian Pharmacy

There are a few key factors that distinguish trustworthy Canadian pharmacies from the bad actors that may claim to operate in Canada but are actually using deceptive marketing tactics to fool consumers. NorthWestPharmacy.com is a website that is certified by the Canadian International Pharmacy Association (CIPA).

We also emphasize customer service and encourage every prospective customer to contact us for a consultation and to discuss their prescription before placing an order. As a rule, avoid pharmacies that promise overnight or speedy delivery without consulting with a pharmacist first.

Another great way to vet an online pharmacy is to carefully read the reviews. Take a good look through the reviews and comments to make sure that they were written by real people and satisfied customers. If the reviews seem off and the customer service department is difficult to reach or non-existent, consider that a red flag. The number of reviews is critical. Don't settle for even a mere few thousand. NorthWestPharmacy.com is the most reviewed and independently five-star rated online pharmacy in the workd.

What IBD Drugs Cost in Canada

Many Americans are shocked to learn that the same medications are hundreds or even thousands of dollars cheaper in a Canadian pharmacy or international drugstore than they are in the U.S. — with or without health insurance and prescription drug coverage.

How much cheaper are IBD drugs in Canada or internationally from NorthWestPharmacy.com? Here's a comparison:

  • Pentasa - $177.49 for 200 pills vs. $1500 - $1900 in the U.S.
  • Asacol - $176.79 for 200 pills (plus free shipping) vs. $1776.47 in the U.S. (for 180 pills)
  • Canasa - $67.59 for 30 suppositories vs. $1222.40 in the U.S.
  • Lialda - $430.29 for 120 pills internationally vs. $1118.29 in the U.S.

Even with insurance, the price differences can be difficult if not impossible to justify, especially for medications prescribed to treat long term, chronic illnesses. The Canadian market and other ones from where NorthWestPharmacy.com supplies medicines from have stringent security and safety protocols for medications, making NorthWestPharmacy.com the ideal partner for Americans who can't afford or don't want to pay exorbitant prices for their prescription medications.

At NorthWestPharmacy.com, we're committed to providing exceptional customer service and transparency, and helping our American customers get the medications they need at fair and affordable prices. For more information about our products and how to safely order your prescriptions from an online Canadian pharmacy and international drugstore, contact us today by calling our toll free number 1-866-539-5330 or contact our customer service department online.

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