How to Save Money on Immunosuppressant Medications
high drug prices
Millions of Americans are currently taking immunosuppressant medications. According to a study conducted by the University of Michigan, about 3% of insured Americans between the ages of 18 and 64 are taking medications that compromise their immune system.
This study was specifically conducted to determine how many people could be potentially at greater risk for dangerous reactions to COVID-19, and how effective a vaccine could be for the group in question. However, this does appear to be the most recent research that speaks to the number of people taking immunosuppressant medications in the U.S. today.
While this study refers to 3% of the population between the ages of 18 and 64, it is even harder to ignore the significant number of people who are over the age of 65 and more likely to have health conditions — or multiple health conditions.
What this means is that more than 3% of the U.S. population is taking immunosuppressant medications — and paying the price for it.
What are Immunosuppressant Medications Used For?
Immunosuppressant drugs are used for a few different reasons to treat numerous conditions or short-term health issues. They are sometimes called anti-rejection drugs.
While there are some variants here, the three most common uses for immunosuppressive drugs are:
- Before and after an organ transplant
- Before and after a bone marrow transplant
- To treat autoimmune disorders
In the case of organ and bone marrow transplants, the major concern is that the body will reject the new, foreign thing that has been introduced. When your body detects something that isn’t supposed to be there, or that it doesn’t recognize, it tries to kill it. This is exactly what your immune system is supposed to do — it’s just doing its job, trying to keep you alive and healthy.
While your body isn’t doing anything wrong when it attacks the new organ that has been transplanted into your body (via an incredible feat of medicine and science), it’s the opposite of what you want to happen. You need your body to accept and sustain the organ, which is where immunosuppressant medications come in.
By modulating the immune system, the drugs are forcing your body to not attack the new organ or bone marrow, which allows your body to become acclimated to them. At the time of transplant, the dosage of these immunosuppressive drugs is usually quite high. If your body seems to be adjusting well, physicians can sometimes decrease the dosage, but you will likely need these medications for the rest of your life.
Bone marrow transplants in particular can occur for any number of reasons, most frequently because of certain types of cancer (multiple myeloma, leukemia, and lymphoma), blood disorders (sickle cell disease, thalassemia), and of course problems within the bone marrow itself (aplastic anemia).
In some cases, bone marrow transplants can be done using the patient’s own marrow — it depends on many factors. If doctors are able to use your own bone marrow, immunosuppressant medications aren’t necessary because your body already recognizes the graft.
While high doses of immunosuppressive drugs are given at the time of a bone marrow transplant (both intravenously and orally), the chances are greater that the patient won’t be on them for the rest of their lives. It’s entirely possible that immunosuppressive medications will be required, but sometimes, the immune system settles enough that the patient can be weaned off the drugs.
In the case of autoimmune disorders, immunosuppressive drugs are incredibly helpful in managing symptoms related to each disorder. Autoimmune disorders are diseases in which the body mistakes healthy tissue for a foreign body, causing the immune system to attack it and try to destroy it.
Again, the immune system is doing its job — it’s just that some wires are getting crossed in the process.
There are many different types of autoimmune disorders, distinguished and separated based on the part of the body your immune system is attacking. This part of the body can be as small as hair follicles or as all-encompassing as your entire nervous system. Common autoimmune disorders include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
- Sjӧgren’s syndrome
- Multiple sclerosis
- Polymyalgia rheumatica
- Ankylosing spondylitis
- Alopecia areata
- Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis)
Immunosuppressant medications step in to tell the immune system to calm down on its attack on whatever part of the body it seems to be trying to destroy. Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most common reasons people take immunosuppressants for, in large part because the major hurdle with RA is the prevention of damage to joints.
Once too much damage has been done, there isn’t much of anything that can be done to help the patient. Immunosuppressive drugs are a lifeline for people suffering from autoimmune disorders, not only helping prevent damage, but improving their quality of life, and in some cases, prolonging their lives.
Here are some of the most common immunosuppressive drugs we sell at NorthWestPharmacy.com, and how much you can save by purchasing through us.
Cellcept (mycophenolate mofetil) is an immunosuppressant medication that is often used in kidney transplant patients but can also be used for patients receiving a new heart or liver.
Mycophenolate mofetil is sometimes prescribed as early as two weeks leading up to a scheduled transplant surgery to prepare the immune system for the new organ. If things are looking good post-op, your surgeon may start to wean you off of the medication — but not entirely. They may reduce your dose just a bit, but not take you entirely off of it.
Some medications don’t have much of a price difference between doses — in this case, 250 mg or 500 mg — but Cellcept isn’t one of those drugs. There’s a rather significant price difference between those two doses, particularly in the U.S.
The cash price for 250 mg of Cellcept in the U.S. starts at about $335.00 for a 30-day supply, or about $11.17 per pill. If you can afford to purchase it in larger quantities, the per pill cost may go down, but forking over $800.00+ for medication isn’t possible for many people — even if it should last for three months.
The 500 mg dose of Cellcept starts at about $610.00 for a 30-day supply, or about $20.33 per pill.
At NorthWestPharmacy.com, you can purchase a 100-day supply of Cellcept at the 250 mg dose for about $250.00, or about $2.50 per pill. The price difference between the two doses is more manageable also, with a 100-day supply of 500 mg Cellcept costing about $295.00.
For those who need a higher dose, we also have a 750 mg generic dose available, which is more difficult to find in the U.S.
Protopic ointment (tacrolimus) is a topical medication used to treat eczema, or atopic dermatitis. Many people don’t look at eczema as an immune-driven condition, but researchers have proven that it is.
Even before this research was published in 2014, doctors sometimes treated eczema with immunosuppressant medication because they found it helped. Knowing how the immune system plays a role in eczema helps both physicians and patients understand how to treat it more effectively.
The reason Protopic is so popular for eczema treatment is the fact that it’s not a steroid. Long-term steroid use is not recommended, and since eczema is a chronic condition, it’s difficult to find effective eczema treatments that someone can use for the long haul as they have flare ups.
Competition among non-steroid eczema treatments is pretty low, considering there are only a couple of them on the market. Of course, this translates into steep prices. In the U.S., the cash price for a 30-gram tube of Protopic costs about $350.00 ($11.67 per gram). Even the generic version is expensive, starting at $105.00 ($3.50 per gram).
At NorthWestPharmacy.com, you can purchase a 30-gram tube of Protopic starting at about $96.00 ($3.20 per gram). You can buy a 40-gram tube of the generic tacrolimus for about $84.00 ($2.10 per gram).
Prograf (tacrolimus) is an oral medication used in the cases of kidney, liver, and heart transplants. You’ll notice that it contains the same active ingredient as Protopic, but of course, the physical form of the drug is different.
Prograf is often given in an injection form the first time (or sometimes the first few times), but after the patient checks out of the hospital post-transplant, it’s typically taken via tablets.
Regular blood work is common with this medication to monitor kidney function, potassium, and sugar levels. Like with other immunosuppressive drugs, the patient will be on this medication (or some other anti-rejection medication) for the rest of their lives.
In the U.S., Prograf starts at about $250.00 for a 30-day supply ($8.20 per pill).
But at NorthWestPharmacy.com, you can buy a 100-pill supply for about $320.00 ($3.20 per pill).
Imuran (azathioprine) is an immunosuppressant medication often used in the cases of heart, lung, and liver transplants, but can also be taken to treat rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease. It is generally safe to take in conjunction with other immunosuppressants.
Because azathioprine is so easily accessible in the U.S., the brand name Imuran is often difficult to find.
At NorthWestPharmacy.com, we have access to Imuran, and you can purchase it for a reasonable price. A 100-day supply of Imuran costs about $64.00 ($0.64 per pill).
The Critical Nature of Immunosuppressive Drugs
If you’re in a position to need immunosuppressant medication, you may not feel like you have a lot of options at your disposal if you need to cut your costs.
Some people try to save money on their necessary medication by skipping doses or taking less of the dose than their physician has prescribed. This is called medication nonadherence or noncompliance and can be extremely dangerous.
It may seem innocuous to skip a dose of medication here and there — what harm could one day do, right?
The main issue is that medications are tested and approved based on specific doses and the amount of time in between doses. It’s these calculations that allow the medication to be effective. If you’re deviating from that recommendation — or even not taking the medication properly, such as with food when you’re supposed to take it on an empty stomach — your medication will not be as effective, if it’s effective at all.
For immunosuppressants, it’s absolutely critical that you take your medication when you’re supposed to every single time. Not doing so can cause your body to start rejecting the organ, tissue, or marrow that has been transplanted.
Save Money on Immunosuppressant Medication
At NorthWestPharmacy.com, we’re dedicated to a few facets of business that we believe are truly critical.
Because so many Americans are struggling under the crushing weight of medical expenses, we do our best every single day to be the lowest priced international and online Canadian pharmacy you can find. In fact, we’re so dedicated to this goal that we have a lowest price guarantee — if you find a lower price for your medication, all you have to do is tell us and we’ll beat it.
We strive to be the best online pharmacy out there, and you can’t possibly hold that title if you’re not keeping the safety and well-being of your customers at the forefront of everything you do.
In order to maintain the highest quality standards, we follow strict guidelines written by two professional pharmacy associations: the Canadian International Pharmacy Association (CIPA) and the International Pharmacy Association of British Columbia (IPABC).
Any supplier that we work with must also be approved by CIPA so that we can help ensure a safe supply chain every step of the way.
As a result of our constant diligence, we’re very proud to say that we have an outstandingsafety record.
And finally, we prioritize customer service. In a time when many places are cutting back on their call centers, we continue to maintain ours. Our call center is open seven days a week and is staffed by knowledgeable representatives who will walk you through the ordering process and answer any of your questions.
If you’re ready to place an order, or if you just have questions, please give us a call at 1-866-539-5330. Alternatively, you can always email us. We’ll get back to you as soon as possible. We look forward to hearing from you soon!