Why Are My Eye Drops So Expensive?

Dr. Sharon Orrange
Dr. Orrange is an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Division of Geriatric, Hospitalist and General Internal Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
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The most frequently performed eye surgery in the United States is cataract surgery. After your cataract procedure your doctor will prescribe you several eye drops with the goal of suppressing inflammation and improving pain. Well, those drops may also cost you an arm and a leg. Here is what you need to know.

You may be given at least three different eye drops after cataract surgery, all at a hefty price.

  1. Antibiotic eye drops.

    Besivance, Vigamox and Zymaxid (gatifloxacin is the generic) are often prescribed after cataract surgery.

    A few tips here: ask your doctor if he/she can prescribe one that has a generic option, like gatifloxacin, so it’s not prohibitively expensive.

    The eye doctors like the newer antibiotic eye drops because they believe there is less antibiotic resistance. Ok, I get that, but find one with a generic option or ask for samples because you’ll get sticker shock if you don’t.

  1. Steroid eye drops.

    These are given to reduce inflammation after cataract surgery. Lotemax, Alrex and Durezol are newer expensive drops often prescribed.

    Pred Forte (aka Omnipred) has a generic option called prednisolone acetate 1% which is a much less expensive steroid eye drop than the others. Price these out. Vexol and Maxidex (dexamethasone) are also popular steroid eye drops that have a more reasonable price tag.

    Steroid eye drops vary in their potency so Pred Forte/prednisolone drops are used 4 – 5 times a day while Durezol drops are used twice a day as they are more potent.

  1. NSAID eye drops.

    Adding non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) eye drops to steroid eye drops improves outcome after cataract surgery with less swelling, pain and light sensitivity. So the two together are better than each alone.

    Prolensa, Nevanac and Ilevro are newer expensive options used once daily. Generic options are bromfenac (generic Bromday) and diclofenac sodium 0.1% drops.

    If cost is an issue, ask about the generic options but they reportedly sting more and need to be used several times a day as opposed to once daily.

Shop around for better prices, generic options, coupons and ask your doctor for samples. Otherwise, these are going to cost you.

Dr O.

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