The Hugely Inflated Prices of Glumetza and Metformin ER

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I have been taking metformin (Glucophage) for about three years. My doctor recommended it since my A1c reading had been climbing from about 5.5 to 6.3% over a two-year period. There is also a history of Type 2 diabetes on the paternal side of my family. Metformin caused me some stomach upset so I switched to Glumetza, a coated form of the same drug, Glucophage, a standard treatment for diabetes that has been available in the United States since 1995. I have excellent insurance coverage and receive all my medications in the most economical form, three month prescriptions delivered by mail.

On February 6th, Caremark mail service called to tell me there was a prescription coming for which I would have to sign. I told the caller that it was fine to leave it at the door. The Caremark representative said that was not possible since it was a high-value prescription. The prescription came the next day, I signed for it, and I checked the invoice only because the person on the phone had told me it was a “high-value prescription” and I knew it was only metformin.

When I looked at the bottom of the invoice I noticed that the listed price was $14,020.87. My co-pay was $40.00 I called Caremark to tell them about the computer error. I didn’t think it was possible that metformin cost $14,020.87. I was even more certain that this was a computer error because the prescription was not Glumetza, but a generic, metformin ER.

It was no error.

And it was a generic prescription.

The brand name Glumetza, sold for over $16,000 for a three-month supply. I was even more stunned than angry and I began to check around. I was about seven months late to the Glumetza story. Probably many of you followed the sale of Glumetza in 2015 to the now notorious Valeant Pharmaceuticals. By the time I reached an online forum complaining about Glumetza pricing, hundreds of people had already registered their complaints.

Last year the New York Times reported that Valeant had purchased Salix, the maker of Glumetza, and immediately raised the price by 800%. I also learned that Blue Cross of Idaho among others, had removed Glumetza from its formulary in July 2015 because of the sudden price increase. In the Times article a Valeant spokesperson said that it was common practice to raise prices before the branded drug became a generic- Glumetza was scheduled to become a generic drug in February 2016.

So, I may have been very late to the astonishing price increase of Glumetza, but I am, by coincidence, among the first to report that the generic price is almost as ridiculous. My bill, $14,009.23, was for the generic, available, as promised, in February 2016 and manufactured by Lupin, an Indian pharmaceutical company that is the sixth largest maker of generics in the world. The Caremark “resolution specialist” assured me that his company did indeed pay $14,009.23 for generic metformin ER tablets. I called the local Rite Aid pharmacy to ask what a generic metformin prescription would cost.  The pharmacist told me $5.13 for a month supply of 500 mg metformin tablets. I checked a Canadian website which sells Glumetza, the branded drug, for $1.13 per 500 mg tablet. An American Internet wholesaler, Health Warehouse charges $127 per tablet.

Apparently, Walmart and others sell generic metformin and generic Metformin ER for a four dollar co-pay. I hadn’t thought my $40 co-pay was excessive, and I suppose it still isn’t if I’m only paying 10 times more than I would have to pay Walmart while my insurance company is paying $14,009.23 for a five dollar generic prescription.

None of this makes any sense to me nor do I imagine it does to any other reasonable person. If you’ve had a similar experience, please leave a comment below.

 

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Thos
Thos
10 months ago

MF’in is between $10 and $30 for 3 months where I live, regardless of dose; price varies slightly by vendor. MF’in ER was #2,600 for the same script period a year ago, regardless of vendor. It’s worse now–prices for MF’in ER range from $6,000 to upwards of $14,000 depending on dose. I have heard that such pricing policies are the insurance-medical/industrial complex’s way of spreading the costs of exorbitant lawsuits (such as silicone, glyphosphate, talc/asbestos, “birth complication” cerebral palsy, etc.). The simple fact is the agro, pharma, and insurance giants are going to get theirs–as will the lawyers and the… Read more »

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
1 year ago

My husband takes Glumetza, as all of the forms of Metformin he has tried upset his intestines terribly. We now order it from Canada, and it’s $400 for a 90 day supply. (1000 mg, 2x per day.)

We do this because our medical insurance uses a prescription management company that will not cover Glumetza. To purchase it without insurance at our local CVS would cost approximately $20,000 for a 90 day supply.

Mike
Mike
1 year ago

I’m from Canada and take Glumetza 1000mg twice daily. It is no where near as expensive as you say. Probably under a dollar a pill. I also learned that APOTEX makes a generic brand, a bit of a savings to go generic but not much. I still requested that my pharmacy go with the generic, I have pretty good prescription coverage too. I’m appalled at what is happening with the cost of this drug in the US.

Susan
Susan
2 years ago

I recently moved to the US from Canada and needed to renew my metformin 500 mg. I got a prescription from a local physician for slow release, coated metformin – the generic – which I requested because I have trouble tolerating the fishy smell of the generic uncoated tablets and also get intestinal upset. I thought the price might increase a bit from what I paid in Canada ($24 for 3 months for generic uncoated 500 mg metformin twice a day), but was shocked when the pharmacy assistant told me the cost was $7,600. She told me not to worry… Read more »

Nurse Practitioner
Nurse Practitioner
2 years ago

I am a Nurse Practitioner. If you are paying a lot for this medication it is because you were prescribed Glumetza 1,000mg tablets. If you are on the extended release you should only take 500mg Glucophage XR per pill but take more pills at a time if needed. This is a burden but will save you money, a lot of money. If taking immediate release you can take Glucophage 500 or 1,000mg pill. Metformin OSM is expensive too. Work with your provider and pharmacy to get on these. Steve, I do not get money for the scripts I write. Some… Read more »

Steve
Steve
2 years ago

Finding this a couple of years late. My wife, after many years of uncontrolled diabetes, is finally trying to get it under control. He first Metformin prescription was free. Went to refill it yesterday at Safeway and was told her doc changed her to a slow release and the cost for 30 day supply would be $6700. Just more fodder for me to hate western medicine and big Pharma more than I already do. Reinforces my belief that docs get kickbacks from big pharma and that is why they always go to the most expensive drugs first, and why the… Read more »

samuel jones
samuel jones
2 years ago

Nope, Express Scripts tried to charge me over $14,600 for a 90 day supply, and I declined! What a bunch of rip-off SOBs!

Andy
Andy
2 years ago

If they have to call my Doc for a refill the online price shows the non-insured rate. Hopefully this will become a reasonable co-pay by the time I pick it up. It is a generic manufactured by Actavis.
Dec 20, 2017
METFORMIN ER 500MG OSMOTIC TABS
Qty: 360
$3299.89

Beth L
Beth L
3 years ago

I was prescribed metformin ER a couple of weeks ago and I went to pick it up and the pharmacy said there was an issue with it. I got a letter from my insurance saying that basically they wouldn’t cover this drug and to take something different. Less expensive I am finding. The regular metformin is only $4.00 a month but the ER is thousands! This is crazy. I am still not on anything so will have to maybe try the regular and see if it messes up my stomach.

Isaac
Isaac
3 years ago

I’m not diabetic, I just found this page doing some personal research: I work at a pharmacy, and I just learned about this nonsense yesterday–I was looking at a patient’s profile and found that, while she was “only” paying 100-something for the brand, it was costing the insurance around 18 grand for a three month supply. My previous record was for a 90 day of Novolog Kwikpens, around 6 grand. I don’t know what’s more appalling, Glumetza’s price gouging or the fact that screwing over the diabetic is apparently the hot new trend. Yes, it’s just costing the insurance that… Read more »

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