Prescriptions for Antivirals Drop Off: GoodRx Monthly Report

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Tori Marsh
Tori Marsh, MPH, is on the Research Team at GoodRx, and is the resident expert on drug pricing and savings.
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After peaking in January, antiviral prescriptions dropped off in February. Though prescription fills remain at an elevated level as the flu continues to ravage the country, data from the GoodRx Index reveals that the worst of the flu season is over, resembling data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The GoodRx Index also showed other drug trends in February:

What do all of these numbers mean?

Prices in the GoodRx Index represent the list price at the pharmacy, also known as the ‘usual and customary’ price. While a majority of people pay for their prescriptions with insurance and are shielded from paying this ‘list price,’ more Americans every day are forced to pay out-of-pocket because of high deductibles, supply limits, or formulary exclusions. Additionally, an upward trend in list price indicates higher prices for both consumers and insurers, even if some insured people won’t be on the hook for the full price.

The Index is based on a nationally representative sample of prescription claims across the U.S.

Antiviral prescriptions

During the worst flu epidemic in years, prescription fills for popular antivirals medications like Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and Relenza dropped in February.

In January, the GoodRx Index revealed that national prescription fills for Tamiflu (oseltamivir) were up by more than 5 times since last year. Some states in the south and midwest were hit especially hard, seeing as much as 14 times more prescription fills for Tamiflu compared to last year.

This upward trend has slackened in recent weeks, as 25% fewer prescriptions were filled for antiviral medications in February compared to January. Additionally, fills for benzonatate, used for cough, are down by almost 40%, and fills for azithromycin, used to treat bacterial infections, are down by 17%. This pattern resembles data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicating a decline in flu-related hospitalizations and outpatient visits since late January.

Generics remain expensive

There’s been a lot of talk concerning generic pricing recently, and rightfully so. Generic drugs comprise 90% of the prescriptions Americans take, with millions of Americans depending on generics for affordable treatment, but prices have been steadily increasing. Over the past couple of months, cash prices for generic medications have increased by 7.5%, and that trend remained through February.

February’s big movers

Drug prices constantly fluctuate, changing incrementally month over month. One noteworthy price change in February occurred with Estradiol, a popular generic hormone used to treat menopause symptoms and prevent osteoporosis. Prices climbed by over 11% since January, rising from $78.93 to $88.44. This price increase is nothing new – back in 2013, the average cash price for a 30-day supply of Estradiol was a mere $26.

The most popular drugs in February 2018

Every month, GoodRx tracks the most popular drugs prescribed in the U.S., comparing total prescriptions written and filled for all forms of the medications. This analysis is based on a representative sample of prescriptions filled at U.S. pharmacies across the 50 states. The result is a top 10 list of the most prescribed drugs in the United States.

  1. Atorvastatin
  2. Levothyroxine
  3. Lisinopril
  4. Hydrocodone/acetaminophen
  5. Amlodipine
  6. Ventolin
  7. Amoxicillin
  8. Omeprazole
  9. Prednisone
  10. Ibuprofen

Some other drug news from February

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