Rising cost of birth control catches college pharmacy

Women who buy birth control from DeWeese Health Center’s pharmacy should expect to pay about double the price, if they haven’t already, as a result of a federal law passed in January.

The Deficit Reduction Act was enacted with the intention of decreasing taxpayers’ burden of Medicaid and Medicare costs while curbing government spending for those programs, according to a White House press release.

A stipulation of the act requires pharmaceutical companies to offer the drug discounts available to college health centers to all pharmacies that serve Medicaid and Medicare patients. As a result, the pharmaceutical companies have cut out discounts all together, MSNBC reports said.

“This is bad,” said Patti Baller, certified nurse and lecturer at the College of Nursing Adult Nurse Practitioner Program, as she skimmed over a list of the new prices. “It’s unfortunate to do to college students who can’t afford anything anyway.”

The reason students buy prescriptions at school is because it’s cheap, gerontology major Audrey Olivier said.

“If the price of prescriptions go up so much, then what’s the point,” Olivier said.

The health center is still able to offer some birth control methods at a lower price than most pharmacies, but had to switch many to generic brands, said Jim Hostler, chief pharmacist at DeWeese. A side-contract signed with generic manufacturer Barr Laboratories, Inc. allowed the health center to order a bulk of off-brand medications at a low price.

“Most went up from $12.50 to $25, which isn’t that much compared to other pharmacies,” Hostler said.

Hostler has been tracking the price differences between the health center, Walgreens and CVS pharmacies to ensure students are getting the best deals.

Desogen, one of the most popular brands sold at the health center, costs $44.79 at CVS pharmacy and $56.99 at Walgreens, according to each pharmacies’ Web sites. Apri, the generic equivalent, although more affordable than the brand name, costs $28.99 at Walgreens, about $4 more than at the health center.

“They’re just going to have to start shopping around,” Baller said.

Some insurance plans cover birth control, but every program is different, Hostler said.

Students should check with their insurance companies to see if certain methods would be cheaper, Baller said. Some companies only require the patient to pay a co-pay for prescriptions.

“I get mine through my doctor so it’s only $5 with insurance,” Roni Jo Kandel, junior marketing major, said.

The health center still offers two brands at the original price of $12.50, Cyclessa and Ortho Tri-cyclen-lo. Hostler said Cyclessa was a slow-mover. The health center still had some from its last order.

“Ortho Tri-cyclen-lo was nice enough to let us buy a two-year supply,” he said.

The health center had a contract with the company, and it allowed them to purchase the pills at the discounted price before the new policies went into effect. However, regular Ortho Tri-cyclen was not on the contract and is now $25.

Depovera seems like the best deal outside of the Cyclessa and Ortho Tri-cyclen-lo, Baller said, after viewing the health center’s new price list. It costs about $65 for one dose and is effective for three months. That adds up to about $15 per month.

Hostler said they were caught off guard by the price increases. Some companies only provided a one-week notice before upping their prices. Many limited the buying price upon first notice of the new policy, Hostler said.

This is just something that trickled down, said Laura Damicone, DeWeese staff pharmacist.

“Tell the student body to write their senators about it,” she said.

Contact health trends reporter Priscilla D. Tasker at [email protected].