Why the price for a common arthritis painkiller has gone up by nearly 2,000 percent

Well, it just keeps happening. Another painkiller drug price has seen an unbelievable increase. This time, it’s an arthritis painkiller and the increase is around 2,000 percent over the course of five years. What changed? The drug’s rights were acquired by a new company. That’s about it, as far as we know.

The Irish drug maker, Horizon Pharmaceuticals, purchased Vimovo in 2013. The drug is an arthritis painkiller. Since its acquisition, the drug’s price has skyrocketed from around $100 to $2,473, for 60 tablets. That’s an increase of around 2,000 percent.

Price of Vimovo Over Time

Vimovo is a combination of two different medications – naproxen (Aleve) and esomeprazole. These two medications, sold separately, cost a miniscule fraction of the price that Vimovo does. If you were to fill 60 tablets of 20mg esomeprazole, you would only pay $39.63. If you filled 60 tablets of 500mg naproxen, the cost would only be $4. The total of the two together is $43.63. Compare that to the $2,473 you would pay for 60 tablets of 500mg-20mg Vimovo. The difference is staggering!

Vimovo is a combination drug that is made of of two ingredients that are already generic — esomeprazole and naproxen. Vimovo does not have a generic alternative.

Esomeprazole: $39.63

Naproxen: $4

Total together: $43.63

Vimovo Price: $2,473

A Spokesmen for Horizon said this high price does not really reflect the cost patients will actually pay for Vimovo. Horizon says they have programs in place to ensure that patients who are commercially insured will be able to obtain the drug at an affordable price.

How can this be?

Though this is the case – that Horizon says they have programs in place for patients to afford treatment – this could contribute to higher health care expenses altogether. For example, though an insured patient could receive Vimovo at a lower cost, if the wholesale price of the drug is still over $2,000, that cost has to be made up somewhere. You could see it made up by higher premiums or higher prescription costs elsewhere.

What can be done?

Talk to your doctor about prescribing you a cheaper alternative. There are a number NSAIDs, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, available in over-the-counter forms and through written prescriptions

Horizon says Vimovo is a special formulation, which is not made by simply combining these two main ingredients. It’s unclear if you could get the same treatment, by combining the two outside of Vimovo. We recommend asking your doctor or pharmacist if this could be a possibility for you.

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