Here’s a telling situation.
Liz had been on prescription niacin, Niaspan, 1500 mg per day (3 x 500 mg tablets) for several years to treat her severe small LDL pattern and familial hypertriglyceridemia (triglycerides 500-1000 mg/dl). Because her health insurance had been paying for the “drug,” she insisted on taking the prescription form.
A change in insurance, however, meant that the Niaspan was no longer covered. Her pharmacy wanted to charge $227 per month.
Liz came to the office in tears, worried that she was going to have to choke up $227 per month. I reminded her that, as I had told her several years ago, she could easily replace the Niaspan with over-the-counter Sloniacin or Enduracin. Both release niacin over approximately 6 hours, just like Niaspan.
Here are the prices I’ve seen with Sloniacin, 100 tablets of 500 mg:
So the most expensive source, Walgreens, would cost Liz just under $15.99 per month to take 1500 mg per day.
$15.99 versus $227.00 per month for preparations that are highly similar. Hmmmmmm.
I wonder what the $211.01 extra per month goes towards? Admittedly, Abbott Labs, the current company selling Niaspan (after Abbott acquired Kos), has invested in a few clinical trials, such as ARBITER-HALTS6. But does supporting research justify this much difference, a difference that amounts to $2532 over a year? If just 100,000 patients are prescribed Niaspan at this dose (a typical dose), this generates $253 million.
Is the cost of developing and marketing a supplement-turned-drug that great? Is this justifiable? Is it any wonder that our health insurance premiums continue to balloon?
I use Sloniacin and Enduracin almost exclusively.
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