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Prescription drug shortages — 24 Comments

  1. Two different doctors and a pharmacist have told me to take only Synthroid brand. I get my 90 day supply at Walgreens and the price has gone up for my copay every three months for the past year. It seems it has nothing to do with any contracted price. It is also a very old drug. My advice would be to get a paper Rx and send it off to Canada where you will get the same Synthroid as sold in U.S. Dr. says they are the same. So how is it cheaper in Canada. Big secret

    • My wife can only take Synthroid also. Levothyroxine does not have the same make up as Synthroid. Her thyroid was destroyed years ago. Her Rx has also increased 2-4 every month, for the last three months. They get into people’s pockets because they know they have to have it. Nobody gives a cut rate on Synthroid. Pharmaceutical companies are one of many unknown terrorists in this country.

  2. I just filled my levothyroxine at Walmart . It’s always been $10 for 90 days. This time it was $21.62? For 30 days! They still list it on their website foe $10 for 90 days. I guess I am in a state where prices are higher even if it is not listed.

    • Hi, Susan, thanks for commenting. Yes, the Walmart website does have an asterisk next to levothyroxine that indicates the price might be higher in certain states. Sorry to hear you’re not getting the best deal. You might try GoodRx.com, too, and see how much levothyroxine costs in your zip code. I wish the cost was going to be coming down in the near future, but I certainly haven’t seen any indication. If anything, hypothyroidism is the latest trendy diagnosis and more people are being put on low doses of thyroid, so demand is going up. Take care, FN

      • I get my levothyroxine filled at Walmart here where I live in TN and it is always at the $10 price for 3 months. My question is has anyone ever tried to get their whole year filled at once? I would like to stock up on mine for a couple reasons, one being my fear that the price increase will hit here and also just because if there were ever some disaster where stores would be closed for any length of time I would be in trouble as I am on a high dosage and get very sick if I go without it.

        • Hi Tamara, I totally understand wanting to stockpile a few months’ worth of levothyroxine “just in case.” My husband feels the same way. First, talk to your pharmacist and see if you can obtain an extra month or two. Insurance companies won’t allow it, but most of us using Walmart don’t use our insurance anyway. Also, talk to your physician and explain what you want. He or she might be willing to write you a second prescription that you can fill at another pharmacy. It might cost a bit more than Walmart, but if you have insurance you could use it for that. Even paying full price out of pocket for a few months’ supply is worth the peace of mind, I think. Good luck, FN

  3. I just purchased a 3 month supply of levothyroxin for $69.95. This is up $20 from my last purchase, 3 months ago. I don’t think the shortage is over yet??? I will try Walmart on-line for my next purchase.

    • Hi Julie, although there isn’t technically a shortage anymore, one brand of levothyroxin was discontinued (Levothyroid), so prices just seem to have stayed high. If you are OK with generic, I would definitely try Walmart. We’ve been very happy with the service (and the price). Good luck, and thanks for reading and commenting! FN

      • I cannot take the generic, but do take Synthroid. When I filled my prescription a week ago, the price had increased by almost 40%. I called the pharmacy to complain because I had given them strict instructions to not run it through insurance because they’ll try to charge me $50 when I know it only costs $38.xx if it doesn’t go through insurance. The gal that answered the phone let me know that the price had gone up effective July 1, and is now $56.xx. YIKES!

        • Hi Anne. I just checked with our local pharmacy, and the price of a generic 30-day supply jumped from $18 to $38 on July 1. A year ago the price was $5. As far as I can tell, there is no shortage. In fact, Levoxyl is finally back on the market, so prices should be coming down. I really don’t understand what is happening–but it’s maddening!! Thanks for commenting, FN

  4. As well as many others I just noticed that Target has been charging me a fortune for my Levothyroxine. I take two different strengths to create a 237mcg dose and now just saw the price at $17.44 & $17.66, I had asked if it was my blood pressure med that again went up causing my bill to be $232.00 and they replied that often times it’s the contracted rates with the insurance company that goes up and they have no control over it. Well now I know the truth! Just a sad day for me as I always valued my relationship with Target. And as a registered nurse I’ll incorporate this into my practice encouraging patients to check what they are being charged when getting a generic. We just had a readmit last night d/t the patient not having been able to afford filling her meds. So how much did the readmit cost us? I have a high deductible plan where I pay $4000.00 before I have any coverage at all including prescriptions. That’s just sad working for a very large healthcare system that affords me nothing!

    • Hi Steve, yes there are lots of generic drugs that are seeing huge prices increases, including antibiotics, vaccines and others. We are told there are shortages due to quality control issues, or generic labs shutting down, but these shortages are more likely the result of manipulation by the larger pharmaceutical companies. I keep meaning to write a post about this…

      Encourage your patients to shop around! Store loyalty doesn’t mean much when the prices get jacked up. We have been happy with Walmart for the levothyroxine, still $10 for 90-day supply of 175mcg.

      And our deductible is $10,000, so I feel your pain! Cheers, FN

  5. The shortage is long over now but Target continues to keep the price raised on Levothyroxine. In fact, they just started their price hike and are claiming a shortage. I too am a nurse and the story I got yesterday when filling my prescription was a bunch of crap! Walmart, Harris Teeter, Kroger etc. all still have this drug for $4 a month. It is one of the oldest and most common prescriptions out there. People need to be careful!

    • Hi Mary, Yes I’ve noticed that, too. We are still using Walmart’s $4 plan, but I checked back at the other pharmacy we were using and a month’s supply is still about 50% more than before the shortage. Generics overall are getting more expensive for a number of reasons (mostly manipulation by the big companies). It makes my husband a bit nervous wondering if the time will come when he can’t afford his levothyroxine! But as you’ve experienced, prices vary A LOT, so everyone needs to shop around, just like any other product. Thanks for the comment! FN

  6. Thanks for the info, very useful.

    The reason some people take Synthroid, the non-generic brand name, is that no two brands of levothyroxine are identical in terms of actual biological effects. Once you are put on generic levothyroxine, you are giving the pharmacy complete license to decide which brand of generic levothyroxine they are going to put you on. And they could put you on a different one every month. Not good for a drug that needs to be calibrated very finely.

    You might say, ok, I know what to do, I’ll pick one generic brand and always ask for it. Sounds great in theory. In practice, you can’t do that either, at least, not for long. What tends to happen is that once a particular generic brand becomes well established, it tends to become non-preferred by health insurance companies, and you end up paying far more for that generic than for preferred generics du jour.

    In the UK, pharmacies are prohibited from changing generic brands of levothyroxine, and for good reason.

    • My husband uses generic and hasn’t had any problems. I don’t know if the pharmacy has been changing generic brands or not. But I also know several people who, like you, can only take the name brands and not generic. Having an unstable thyroid level can be miserable and it does take time to get the dose just right, often months.

      Interestingly, it appears the levothyroxine shortage is over, but the prices for generic have not returned to pre-shortage prices.

      Thanks for commenting, FN

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  8. Thank you so much for posting this! I had been getting my Levothyroxine at Target for years for 10 dollars (3months supply) Yesterday it was 11.50 for 1 month. I will check Walmart!

    • Hi Debbie, Crazy, isn’t it, that we don’t get some kind of advanced warning about these price hikes? I found the Walmart program very easy to access and could do everything online; I hope it works for you, too. And fingers crossed the price stays stable! Thanks for the comment, FN

  9. Are you aware of the drug shortage bulletins from the American Society of Hospital Pharmacists? I have subscribed to them for many years. Here is the link to their notice about levothyroxine. As you discovered, numerous generic suppliers exist. Have you been buying the Pfizer brand name product because you prefer it over generics? http://tinyurl.com/ol696ek

    • Hi Ray, I have read some links to the ASHP but didn’t know that you could subscribe. That would be useful information. We have always used the generic levothyroxine, but it’s price has been affected by the brand name shortages as well (the old supply and demand). And I know other people who can only use brand-name thyroid (not really sure why), and they have seen prices hit $100 a month. Perhaps if prices stay so high, they will give generics another try. Nice to hear from you, as always 🙂

      • Oh, I see. When I read your post, I thought you were saying that you were buying the brand name and switched to the generic. I am insulated from the actual costs of prescriptions because I long ago married a state employee, now retired. The size of the group gives them real bargaining clout. Glad to hear you are going to have some prescription coverage on your new policy.

        I have heard the same thing about some people having to take the brand name drug, but have never actually met such a person. I am pretty sure they exist because I do know of two people who were affected by generic manufacturing failures that resulted in products that weren’t equivalent to the patented medication.

    • Well, for now anyway! Thankfully, our family doesn’t use any other prescription medications (for now), so we are somewhat sheltered from these shortages and price hikes. Thanks for commenting! FN