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Why is Viibryd So Expensive?

December 16, 2020

high drug prices

Mental health issues are among the most common overall health issues in the United States. Around one in five Americans — or over 47 million people — suffer from mental illness. Mental illness doesn't affect everyone equally, and mental health disorders can range from minor to debilitating.

The large number of people impacted by mental illness makes it a common target for drug companies. There are a lot of people in need — and not all are being served well. This creates an incentive for drug companies to develop newer, more effective drugs to better serve these particular patients.

Unfortunately, new drugs are often expensive. In some cases, prohibitively so.

Viibryd — a relatively new antidepressant drug — falls into this category. As a new antidepressant, it's gained significant popularity, becoming a commonly prescribed drug relatively quickly.

That is, of course, despite how expensive it is.

What is Viibryd?

Viibryd, or vilazodone, is a medication used to treat depression, or specifically, major depressive disorder. It is what is known as a serotonin modulator and stimulator, or SMS. It is believed to work like an SSRI, with the addition of impacting another specific serotonin receptor in the brain.

Viibryd was developed by Merck KGaA and was approved for the United States market in 2011. It was approved for the Canadian market in 2018. While it was initially licensed and marketed by Forest Laboratories, that company was acquired by Actavis, which then became Allergan after the Irish company Actavis acquired the US company Allergan.

Viibryd is notable as an antidepressant because it differs from the typical SSRIs — which tend to be some of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants. These include drugs like Lexapro (escitalopram), Paxil (paroxetine), Prozac (fluoxetine), and Celexa (citalopram).

This is mainly because of that additional receptor in the brain that it affects. Technically, it still is an SSRI, but because it's also a partial 5HT1A receptor agonist, it's considered to be in a different class.

New antidepressants are being researched all the time — and for good reason. 40 million Americans take some form of medication for a mental health issue, and that includes depression.

That means there is a tremendous market for new drugs.

Even a minor improvement could mean billions. In Viibryd's case, the company that developed it pushed early on claiming that it had fewer sexual side effects compared to other SSRIs.

Sexual side effects are prominent in SSRIs, and are one of the most common complaints against them, along with weight gain. For this reason, creating a weight neutral or libido neutral antidepressant that is still effective has been a major goal of the pharmaceutical industry. Doing so would surely lead to huge profits.

With that said, while the company behind Viibryd claims it has fewer sexual side effects, the FDA doesn't necessarily agree.

In fact, to quote the FDA, "Vilazodone is a new treatment for MDD, but it is unknown whether it has any advantages compared to other drugs in the antidepressant class."

That doesn't mean that it isn't effective, however. The FDA found that it worked about as well as older SSRIs on the market.

Still, despite that, Viibryd has been marketed effectively. It's currently prescribed to over one million Americans.

How Much Does Viibryd Cost?

In the United States, a 30-day supply of 10mg tablets costs, on average, $347. Because it is a new drug and is protected by patent law, there is no generic.

Through NorthWestPharmacy.com, it is possible to purchase a 30-day supply of Viibryd in the same strength for $164.89.

Why is Viibryd So Expensive?

The total antidepressant drug market is valued at $13.69 Billion — and by 2025, it's expected to grow by another $2 billion. To be blunt, there's a lot of money in the industry of developing mental health drugs.

A lot of people are mentally ill — and that number is growing.

While many Americans suffer from some form of mental illness, many aren't comfortable talking to their doctor or otherwise seeking treatment. Statistics show that young people are being increasingly affected by anxiety — and they aren't getting the help that they need. An increasing number of young people are also being impacted by depression.

At the end of the day, all of this means that there is a huge market for drug companies to take advantage of. People are sad, tired, and worn out, and they need help. Drug companies are more than happy to help out — as long as people are willing to pay.

Because of the nature of the American market, they likely won't have any choice.

Due to the lack of regulatory oversight on drug pricing in the United States, marketing costs, greed, research and development costs, and patent law, most "new" drugs like Viibryd command a high price.

Pharmaceutical companies operate like every other business — they exist to drive a profit for their owners and shareholders. Just because they're selling a product that so many Americans desperately need to feel normal, doesn't mean that they are going to give it away. In fact, that demand is reason for them to charge even more.

This is one of the reasons why drug companies are always developing new pharmaceuticals. If you develop a new drug, you can patent it — and if you can patent it, you can control its price without having to worry about generic competitors for 20 years.

Regardless, let's talk about those points we mentioned above and break them down, one by one:

Lack of Regulatory Oversight

The United States lacks a regulatory framework for challenging drug makers on how much they charge for drugs.

Most developed countries have some sort of framework in place that keeps the cost of drugs down. For some, this means a single-payer system, in which the government is the only purchaser of drugs and medical services — meaning that they can aggressively negotiate down the cost. Essentially, if they don't buy them, no one will, so this forces drug companies to play ball. In others, there is a firm system in place that caps the amount of money drug companies can charge.

In the United States, however, no such system exists. In America, you pay what the drug companies want you to pay.

This doesn't mean that other countries are perfect — or that everyone gets their medication for free — but it does mean that most Americans will pay more for their medication than citizens from around the world. This is why Canadians pay less for medications than Americans, even though many Canadians pay considerably more than the citizens of other countries!

Marketing Costs

There are only two countries in the world that allow drug companies to advertise directly to consumers: New Zealand and the United States. Yet, despite there only being two markets advertising companies can advertise to, they spent an estimated $30 billion on drug advertising in 2016.

Of course, drug companies don't limit their marketing to consumers — they also target psychiatrists directly. This was the case with Clinical Data, one of the firms behind Viibryd. They hired a team of sales representatives to reach out to psychiatrists and primary care physicians to tell them about the benefits of their brand-new drug. To be clear, this wasn't some new campaign — drug companies do this for the release of any new medication. It's just business as usual.

They aren't necessarily doing this for the benefit of the psychiatrists or their patients. They want to sell drugs. They want a chunk of the market, and the antidepressant market is huge, with 11.4% of people from 20-59 taking an antidepressant of some kind.

Many people rightfully point out how strange it is that Americans are bombarded by TV ads for drugs, which they can't even get themselves without a prescription. Yet, even if we did away with direct-to-consumer advertising, we'd still have to contend with the legion of sales representatives that descend on doctors each year.

While it's good that doctors are aware of the latest drugs on the market, perhaps it shouldn't be the drug companies themselves engaging in that practice.

Research and Development

Drug manufacturers often say that the reason why drugs are so expensive is simply because they take so much time, money, and effort to develop. They claim that the costs are an inevitability due to the difficulty of the process.

How true this is, however, is up for debate.

How much do the big pharmaceutical companies really spend on research and development? The companies themselves claim that it's the large majority of their budget — they often cite figures in the billions of dollars. Yet, this doesn't appear to be true:

[Researchers] found that companies took an average of 7.3 years to win FDA approval, at a median cost of $648 million. Only two drugs had research costs over $1 billion. Adding in the cost of capital at 7 percent increased the median research and development cost to $757 million — less than a third of the Tufts estimate.

Yet, even if this was true, how much would it really matter?

You can look at the reports of any of the pharmaceutical giants and see the enormous profits that they are pulling in. Even if they were spending billions of dollars on research, they're generating much, much more in profit.

No matter what, however, the end result is the same: Americans are forced to pay enormous sums to receive their necessary medications.

Patent Law

As we mentioned in the above section, when a drug company brings a new medication to market, they hold a patent on that drug for 20 years. During that period, they are the sole producer of that drug.

Patents aren'’t themselves inherently bad. They serve as an important mechanism that fuels innovation, as it ensures that companies can profit from drugs that they develop. Yet, the patent system is often stretched far past its limits by drug companies.

Writing for CNBC, Tahir Amin, the co-founder and co-executive director of I-MAK.org, a non-profit organization comprised of senior attorneys, scientists and health experts who have worked to lower drug prices for 15 years, had this to say about the patent system in the United States:

In the absence of genuine competition in the U.S. prescription drug market, monopolies are yielding reckless pricing schemes and prohibitively expensive drugs for Americans (and people around the world) who need them.

Until our patent system is reformed, the pharmaceutical industry will continue to abuse it—denying real competition, blocking incentives for actual new drug discoveries and using clever marketing strategies around "new" products that do not improve health outcomes.

Remember: while Viibryd might be the most helpful drug available for some people, the FDA never found that it was significantly better than other drugs on the market. To quote the FDA once again:

"Vilazodone is a new treatment for MDD, but it is unknown whether it has any advantages compared to other drugs in the antidepressant class."

Because Viibryd is a new drug, its creators can hold a patent on it for 20 years. That means 20 years of patients paying absurd prices for a drug that they need in order to feel normal.

Where Can You Buy Cheaper Viibryd?

Viibryd is expensive — unbearably so, for many Americans. Yet, there is another option: buying your medication via an international online pharmacy. Through NorthWestPharmacy.com, you can get Viibryd for much cheaper than in the United States.

Through NorthWestPharmacy.com, it is possible to purchase a 30-day supply of Viibryd in the same strength for $164.89.

NorthWestPharmacy.com can ship your medication directly to your front door. If you need assistance with your order — or have any questions at all — our customer service representatives are always available to help. They'll walk you through the entire process from start to finish. When you purchase your medication from us, you can be assured of savings, safety and service.

Thanks to hundreds of thousands of reviews from happy customers, NorthWestPharmacy.com is the most reviewed and independently five-star rated online pharmacy in the world.

At NorthWestPharmacy.com, our goal is to help you save money on your prescription medications. For more information, you can call us toll free at 1-866-539-5330 or contact us online.

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