Why is Pennsaid so expensive?

Americans pay the highest prices in the world for brand-name prescription drugs. Pennsaid is an expensive topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug used for the treatment of osteoarthritis. There’s no generic version of Pennsaid available at this time. Learn more about why Pennsaid is so expensive and what options are available for you to save on this medication.

What is Pennsaid (diclofenac sodium topical solution)?

Pennsaid is an FDA-approved nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) prescription drug that is applied to the skin and is used for treating the pain of osteoarthritis of the knee(s). It is a topical solution that is to be applied to the skin over the affected area.

Pennsaid 2% contains the active ingredient diclofenac sodium topical solution and works by reducing the pain, swelling, and inflammation in the joints.

Pennsaid is usually applied 2 times a day, morning and evening.

Pennsaid side effects

The most common side effects of Pennsaid are application site reactions such as:

  • dryness
  • peeling
  • redness
  • itching
  • pain
  • skin hardening
  • rash
  • blisters
  • scabbing.

Other side effects are:

  • bladder infection
  • bruising
  • sinus congestion
  • nausea
  • upset stomach
  • stomach pain
  • gas
  • constipation
  • diarrhea

The most serious side effects of Pennsaid are:

  • swelling of the throat or face
  • difficulty breathing
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain
  • weakness in one part of your body
  • upset stomach
  • slurring of speech
  • upper stomach pain
  • black or tarry stools
  • vomiting of blood
  • nausea
  • tiredness
  • weakness
  • itching or yellowing of the eyes or skin
  • unexplained weight gain
  • swelling of legs, arms, feet or hands
  • rash

If you experience any side effects or possible signs of an allergic reaction while taking this medication, speak with your healthcare provider right away. You are also encouraged to report negative side effects to the FDA. Make sure to let your healthcare provider know about all of the other medications, over-the-counter products, and supplements you are taking. To report the side effects of this medication, visit www.fda.gov/medwatch or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

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How much does Pennsaid cost?

The cost of Pennsaid varies depending on your health insurance coverage and your insurance plan’s coverage for this medication. Contact your insurance broker or pharmacist to find out if your health insurance plan covers Pennsaid under its formulary.

For individuals who do not have prescription drug coverage for this medication, Pennsaid costs around $2,628.75 per month.

For those with commercial prescription drug coverage (for example, through an employer or private plan), the actual cost or co-pay will depend on your insurance plan’s drug coverage. Each insurance plan is different and your out-of-pocket cost for this medication may vary by plan.

The manufacturer states on its website that commercially insured patients will pay $0 for approved prescriptions. Some patients may have to pay a low copay if the prescription is not covered by their insurance plan.

Why is Pennsaid so expensive?

There are several reasons why Pennsaid and other brand-name medications are so expensive in the United States:

Generic version of Pennsaid is not yet available

A generic version of Pennsaid is not yet available. When a brand-name drug has no generic version, the brand-name drug usually costs more. Generic drugs typically cost a lot less money than their brand-name counterparts as generic pharmaceutical companies do not need to invest in the research and development (R&D) and marketing costs to bring the drug to market.

The patents for Pennsaid are expected to expire on October 17, 2027, which is the earliest possible date that a generic version of Pennsaid may be approved by the FDA for sale. Until then, people will need to purchase the brand-name version of Pennsaid.

RELATED: Brand vs generic drugs

Patent law protection

Another reason why the price of Pennsaid is so expensive is because patent law protection provides the manufacturer of Pennsaid with exclusive rights to sell this drug until the patents expire. Typically, the patent will last for around 20 years from the date of the initial application. When a pharmaceutical company discovers a new drug and introduces it to the market for the first time, that company is given an exclusive patent for that drug by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The patent protection period is intended to allow the pharmaceutical company to recoup its investment in researching, developing and marketing the drug for the first time.

The patents for Pennsaid are expected to expire October 17, 2027 which is the earliest date another pharmaceutical company can apply for authorization from the FDA to market a generic alternative of Pennsaid.

Unregulated pharmaceutical prices in the United States

Americans are paying the highest prices in the world for brand-name medications. In contrast to other developed nations, the United States does not regulate the prices of prescription drugs. The prices of medications continue to increase at a rate that is faster than inflation, according to a study conducted by AARP.

Another study conducted by RAND concluded that medication prices in the United States are on average 2.56 times higher than in other OECD countries.

How do I save on Pennsaid?

Pennsaid is an expensive NSAID brand-name medication, especially for those who do not have prescription drug coverage for this medication. Fortunately, there are a few options that be could help you save money on Pennsaid:

  1. Pennsaid Copay Card – the manufacturer offers a copay card to help save money. Those who qualify will pay as little as $0 per month for Pennsaid. Make sure to review the latest terms and conditions on the manufacturer’s website to find the latest eligibility requirements.
  2. Patient assistance programs – find out if you are eligible for enrollment into a patient assistance program for Pennsaid.
  3. Ask your prescribing doctor for free Pennsaid samples – most pharmaceutical companies will give free medication samples to healthcare providers to help their patients get started on the medication.
  4. Get medical advice from your healthcare professional and find out if there are any alternative medicines for your medical condition – ask your prescribing doctor if there are any less expensive alternatives to Pennsaid, such as Vimovo, ibuprofen, meloxicam or naproxen.
  5. Shop around for the lowest price at multiple mail-order pharmacies – medication prices vary by pharmacy so it is recommended to always check pricing at multiple pharmacies to find the lowest possible price for your medicine.
  6. Pennsaid coupons – find out if there is a Pennsaid manufacturer coupon that can help you save money on this medication.
  7. Get help from Medicaid – find out if you are eligible for a state Medicaid plan that may cover the cost of Pennsaid.

Medically reviewed

A medical professional has reviewed this article.

Jamie Winn, PharmD
Jamie Winn, PharmD

Jamie Winn, PharmD

Medical Writer & Reviewer

Jamie Winn, PharmD

Medical Writer & Reviewer

Dr. Jamie Winn received his Doctor of Pharmacy in 2002 from the University of South Carolina College of Pharmacy, Columbia, SC. Jamie is a medical reviewer for NiceRx.

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Sources (3)

  1. Pennsaid official website

  2. Save on Pennsaid

  3. Drugs.com - Pennsaid price guide

The content on this website is intended for information purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice. The information on this website should not be relied upon and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. You should always speak to your doctor regarding the risks and benefits of any treatment.