Why is Vraylar so expensive?
It’s unfortunate that Americans are paying the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. Vraylar is an expensive brand-name medication used to treat certain medical health conditions. Find out why Vraylar is so expensive and what options are available to save on this medication.
What is Vraylar (cariprazine)?
Vraylar is an FDA-approved brand-name atypical antipsychotic medication used by adults to treat certain mental health conditions including:
- bipolar depression in adults with bipolar I disorder
- mixed or manic episodes in adults with bipolar I disorder
- schizophrenia in adults
Vraylar is available as a capsule in strengths of 1.5 mg, 3 mg, 4.5 mg and 6 mg. It is manufactured by Abbvie and Allergan, and was approved by the FDA on September 17, 2015. The capsules should be swallowed whole with or without food at around the same time each day.
How does Vraylar work?
Vraylar contains the active ingredient cariprazine. Although the exact mechanism of action is not known for sure, it is thought to affect the activity of two brain chemicals, dopamine and serotonin, which are both chemicals in the brain that are responsible for regulating your mood, behaviors and thoughts.
Vraylar side effects
The most common side effects of Vraylar are:
- difficulty moving or slow movements
- restlessness and feeling like you need to move around
- uncontrolled body movements
The most serious side effects of Vraylar are:
- stroke (cerebrovascular problems) in elderly people with dementia-related psychosis that can lead to death
- neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS) – symptoms may include high fever, stiff muscles, increased sweating, confusion, or changes in breathing, blood pressure, and heart rate.
- uncontrolled body movements (tardive dyskinesia or TD):
- problems with your metabolism, such as high blood sugar and diabetes
- increased fat levels (cholesterol and triglycerides) in your blood
- weight gain
- low white blood cell count
- decreased blood pressure (orthostatic hypotension)
- falls as a result of dizziness or sleepiness
- seizures (convulsions)
- impaired judgment, thinking, and motor skills
- increased body temperature:
- difficulty swallowing that can cause liquid or food to get into your lungs
Antidepressants may increase suicidal thoughts or actions in some children and young adults within the first few months of taking Vraylar and when the dose of this medication is changed.
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. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
How much does Vraylar cost?
The cost of Vraylar will depend on your health insurance coverage and your insurance plan’s coverage for this medication. Check your health insurance plan to find out what you will pay for this medication if you are currently insured with prescription drug coverage.
For individuals without prescription drug insurance, Vraylar costs around $1,312 per month according to the manufacturer.
For those with private prescription drug coverage (eg. commercial coverage), the average monthly copay can vary by insurance plan.
New eligible individuals may pay as low as $0 for their first 30-day supply prescription and as low as $5 for a 30-day or 90-day supply refill prescription with the Vraylar savings card.
The manufacturer estimates that around 85% of all prescriptions for Vraylar have out-of-pocket costs of around $0-25 per month, including the use of Vraylar savings cards.
Most individuals with Medicare Part D coverage who qualify for the Extra Help program pay between $0-4 per month, and around 80% of those who don’t qualify for Extra Help pay between $0-45 per month.
For Medicaid enrollees, around 90% of prescriptions for Vraylar have an out-of-pocket cost of around $0-$4 per month.
Why is Vraylar so expensive?
There are a few reasons why Vraylar is so expensive in the United States:
Generic Vraylar is not yet available
Vraylar is an expensive brand-name medication with no generic alternatives available.
The patents for this medication are expected to expire on September 17, 2029, which is the earliest possible date that a generic pharmaceutical company can apply for authorization from the FDA to register the first generic alternative for Vraylar. Once the generic drug is available for sale, people who are taking this medication can expect to start paying a lower price.
Generic drugs are often much less expensive than brand-name drugs and are chemically equivalent to their brand-name counterparts. There are many reasons why brand-name drugs cost more than generics, including:
- The high cost of research and development for new medications
- The time it takes to bring a new medication to market
- The costs associated with advertising and marketing the drug to doctors and consumers
- Patent protection prevents other pharmaceutical companies from selling the same medication
RELATED: Brand vs generic drugs
Patent law protection
Patent laws provide pharmaceutical companies with exclusive rights to market and sell their medication from the time the drug is first approved which generally lasts for 20 years. The patent protection period allows pharmaceutical companies to recoup the large investment which was made into the research and development (R&D) that was required to develop and introduce the new medication to the market which is a costly process. This is intended to incentivize further development of new drugs.
After the patents expire, generic pharmaceutical companies can apply for authorization from the FDA to start selling a generic version of the same drug. As multiple generic companies will eventually sell and compete for the same drug, the price will eventually come down for consumers, making the medication more affordable.
The patents for Vraylar will expire on September 17, 2029, which is the earliest date that a generic drug company will be able to apply for FDA approval to sell a generic version of Vraylar.
The prices of prescription drugs in the United States are the highest in the world. Prices are not regulated by the government like in most other countries which creates a free market for pharmaceutical companies to determine the pricing based on the demand for their medications. As patent laws provide a 20-year monopoly to the drug company that initially developed the drug, it is common for the medication price to continue increasing without any competition.
RAND conducted a study that shows that pharmaceutical prices in the United States are on average 2.56 times higher than in other OECD countries, and another study by AARP shows that prescription drug pricing increases continue to outpace the rate of inflation.
How do I save on Vraylar?
Vraylar is an expensive brand-name medication, especially for individuals who are uninsured or with high copays. There are a few options worth considering that may be able to help you save money on Vraylar:
- Vraylar Savings Card – Abbvie offers a savings card and eligible individuals may pay $0 for their first two 30-day supply prescriptions and as low as $5 for 30-day or 90-day supply refills. Make sure to review the latest terms and conditions on Abbvie’s website to find the latest eligibility requirements.
- Patient assistance programs – find out if you are eligible for enrollment into a patient assistance program for Vraylar.
- Ask your prescribing doctor for free Vraylar samples – most pharmaceutical manufacturers give free samples to doctors to provide to their patients in order to assist them with getting started on the medication.
- 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 Vraylar alternatives for the treatment of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Alternative atypical antipsychotic medications include Seroquel (quetiapine), Abilify (aripiprazole), Zyprexa (olanzapine), Latuda (lurasidone) and Rexulti (brexpiprazole).
- 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.
- Vraylar coupons – find out if there is a Vraylar manufacturer coupon that can help you save money.
- Get help from Medicaid – find out if you are eligible for a state Medicaid plan that may cover the cost of Vraylar.
A medical professional has reviewed this article.
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.