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The High Cost of Prescription Drugs: President Calls For Change

This week, President Donald Trump said he'll to what he can to bring down the cost of pricey medications.

That's news Carrollton resident Derek Jenkins wants to hear.

He and his family were recently between insurance plans, so when he went to his local pharmacy to pick up his wife's medication, he had prepared to pay for it in cash.

He wasn't prepared for the price the pharmacist quoted him.

"He said it would be $250. I started to laugh a little bit and said, 'You must be kidding,' and he said, 'No, that's the cash price,'" Jenkins said.

He said he look at his previous health insurance claims and his insurance was billed at less than $20 for the same 30-day supply.

"If a drug costs price X, then I should pay X. If Blue Cross is paying that price and every other insurance company is paying that price, why can't I pay that price?" Jenkins said.

That's not how it works, according to experts.

Drug companies set a retail price for their medications, but they negotiate prices and offer big rebates to insurance companies and selected pharmacies.

Cash-paying customers, however, have to pay retail price.

"Once that price is set, that gets translated into the charge that will go out to the patient, and it gets much more complex from there," said Dr. Darrin D'Agostino, associate dean of community medicine at the University of North Texas Health Science Center.

D'Agostino says pharmaceutical companies set high prices to recoup production costs, and in the end the consumer will ultimately be on the hook.

"It's consumerism. It's capitalism. It's production of a medicine that may be the only medication that someone can use. At that point, the company that has develop it needs to recoup their research and development of that product," D'Agostino said.

"The recoup of that expense really comes at the consumer level, when you're charging these medications to either the patient who needs it or to the company that is going to distribute," D'Agostino added.

This week, the president weighed in on the issue, asking the industry to cut prices and speed up drug development, and promising to make changes at the Food and Drug Administration to help by cutting regulations.

"U.S. drug companies have produced extraordinary results for our country, but the pricing has been astronomical," Trump said.

Jenkins feels changes cannot come soon enough.

"The system is working to get as much money out in their pocket as they possibly can," he said.

Jenkins says he used an online coupon to get a seven-day supply of the medication at a cost-savings.

His long-time pharmacy, Walgreens Co., sent the following statement to NBC 5:

"More than 97 percent of our patients purchase prescriptions using some form of prescription insurance coverage. When choosing a pharmacy, we encourage patients to select one based on overall pricing and the services available - such as participation in government plans, 24/7 convenience and services that can accommodate immediate prescription drug needs. It's also important for patients to use a single pharmacy so that pharmacists can monitor their medications and avoid potential drug interactions. Many of our cash paying customers take advantage of our Prescription Savings Club, which offers discounts and savings on the cash price of thousands of brand-name and generic medications."

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