The People's Perspective on Medicine

Why Is Duexis So Expensive?

A reader says Duexis is helpful for pain relief, but it is unaffordable. Would ibuprofen and famotidine separately work as well?

People with chronic joint pain often find themselves between a rock and a hard place. If they take an NSAID pain reliever, they can keep moving–which is good. But they may also suffer serious digestive tract damage, up to and including bleeding ulcers. Not so good. One drug company has brought out a combination pain reliever, Duexis, that includes medicine to protect the gastrointestinal system. But why is it so very expensive?

Duexis Is a Pricey Pain Reliever:

Q. I need a hip replacement, but I have been able to delay surgery thus far. I’ve been taking Duexis (800 mg of ibuprofen and 26.6 mg of famotidine in a single tablet) and that has been effective in alleviating pain.

When I went to my pharmacy to pick up the pills, I was told my insurance company would not pay for it. It would cost me nearly $3,000 for a month’s supply.

My doctor wrote a justification to the insurance company, and I was surprised to learn my co-pay was now zero, but for just two months. After that, my co-pay would be $200. I contacted the insurance company that said Duexis is not a preferred prescription. The preferred prescription would actually be two prescriptions, one for the ibuprofen and one for famotidine. This does not make sense to me. Why is Duexis so expensive?

Companies Can Charge What They Like:

A. The online coupon service GoodRX lists the average retail price of Duexis as $3,087 per month. With a GoodRX coupon, you can knock about $500 off the bill, but that’s still pricey. We’re not aware of any obvious reason why this drug should cost so much. However, pharmaceutical firms get to set their own prices. The makers of Duexis may have decided to charge a lot for it so that they would make money even if few people took it.

Other Options for Stomach-Safe Pain Relief:

Have you and your doctor discussed the two-prescription option? Both ibuprofen and famotidine are inexpensive (under $10 a month for both). Although taking the two drugs together in Duexis is more convenient, you may be able to get similar pain relief and stomach protection by taking these medications separately.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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Over the last few years I developed multiple spinal herniations. I was taking Norco but I changed docs and admitted I was dose tolerant and needed something stronger. He switched me to Nucyenta (opiate) and Duexis. After a couple of weeks, I decided that the Nucyenta was worthless and just stopped taking it. I was a bit afraid of withdrawal symptoms but had none. Duexis has helped, costs just $10 (it’s an insurance thing). I would definitely go with OTC ibuprofen and acid reducer if I had to pay for this combo.

I’ve been taking Ibuprofen along with my prescription of Nexium for years now, not knowing about this new med. I’ve never had a gastric problem doing it this way. If I need Ibuprofen during the day (after my initial dose), I take it with food.

It seems a shame to me that our government controls hospital charges, doctor charges, therapy charges, medical equipment charges… basically everything medical EXCEPT what pharmaceutical companies can charge. Medication is NOT a choice in some circumstances; it is life or death. But pharmaceutical companies “can charge what they want”. Where is the justice in that?

“I need a hip replacement, but I have been able to delay surgery thus far.” If replacement is inevitable, why wait? I had both replaced. First one I was like you — trying to delay. After the first, and just a month or two of rehab, the other started hurting. I couldn’t get the second replacement fast enough. While you delay and try different pain relief, you are taking medication that could be harmful. GET’ER DONE NOW!

I have read somewhere that taking a large amount of Boron for period of time and then cutting back would help arthritis. I would like your opinion about this. Thank you

Twenty-five years ago, when I got in trouble for taking too much ibuprofen, a friend told me to do what her doctor told her to do: to take a famatodine (Pepcid) every time I took ibuprofen – and I did it. I have NEVER had problems since then. This is hogwash that someone would charge so much money for doing essentially the same thing.

I took Duexis before my knee replacement. The pharmacy I used had a “coupon” that they used for me, and the drug only cost $20 per refill. Since then my other hip has been acting up, and I called in a refill. Since I’m now on Medicare, the pharmacy cannot use the coupon. I decided to just use ibuprofen and ranitidine together. It works just as well.

“Pharmaceutical firms get to set their own prices.” Another reason why commercial medicine is so appalling. Thank God I live in the UK and have access to our great National Health Service. I tried U.S. medicine a few years ago. Same tests, advice, treatment at a phenomenal price compared with free over here.

Nothing is free. You pay for it one way or another.

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