Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Random Book Excerpt, Because Not Everyone Should Pay To Experience My Wisdom.

Actually, now that I read that, very few people do. Pretty much anyone at anytime can come up to me at the store and pick my brain. Now that I think about that I'm kinda jealous of these people now. Able to ask me a question whenever they want. Lucky them.

Wait, now that I think about it even more I realize I can ask myself a question and experience my wisdom anytime I want. Whether it's 2 in the morning or during my morning shower or even in the middle of sexual intercourse.

I am the luckiest man on earth, and it would be mean of me not to share me.

Here you go:

Chapter 7: Atralin

The Med

Atralin is a brand name for the topical acne medicine tretinoin, and tretinoin was my teenage savior. Regular use, a little peeling to let me know I was using too much, a sunburn or two to teach me those warning stickers put on by the pharmacy weren’t just for show, and the volcanic mountain range that had erupted on my face eventually went into submission. The fact tretinoin can make acne worse before it makes it better was a little disconcerting, but after a few weeks, this pimply faced future professional was convinced tretinoin was a gift from heaven. I was now free to become socially awkward based only on the merits of my actions and not on the condition of my skin. It felt better somehow to know my awkwardness was now earned.

To make it even better, as I approach middle age, tretinoin has now also come into wide use in the treatment of facial wrinkles, making it easy to think of it as some sort of lifetime sex appeal in a tube. There are some people who would pay a lot for lifetime sex appeal, no questions asked I bet. Valeant Dermatology, the same company that brought us the rip-off acne med Acanya I talked about earlier, seems to have made that bet as well.

The Scam

Some of you more astute readers may have read the above description of tretinoin and wondered if I wasn’t talking about Retin-A. I was. Retin-A was the original topical tretinoin, and is now saving the complexions of the children of its first generation of users. Drugs this old have generally lost their patent protection and are available as money-saving generics, and Retin-A is no exception. Funny thing about this med though, even though it’s sold in different strengths, including 0.05%, and even though it’s available in both a cream and a gel formulation, one way you can’t get it is as a 0.05% gel. This is where Valeant saw its opportunity.  It introduced Atralin, a 0.05% gel form of tretinoin and marketed it as a new product not substitutable for a generic. The price? $250 for a 45 gram tube. Over four times the price I found for the same size 0.05% cream with a little shopping around.

Neither the cream nor the gel has been shown to be more effective by the way. Keep that in mind when you’re making your purchasing decisions.

Once again however, a little looking around will lead you to a “savings offer,” where insured patients, most insured patients that is, will pay $25. If you’re one of the lucky ones who qualifies for that $25 copay though, just remember your pharmacy has submitted a claim to your insurer for $250. Uninsured patients will pay $75 with the savings card. Which means Atralin is a product whose primary purpose it would seem, is to drain money away from your insurance company and those people not savvy enough to look for coupons, and into the coffers of Valeant Dermatology.

What To Do

Unless you’re just a really big fan of topical gels, there’s little if any reason to buy Atralin. Just stick with the generic Retin-A.

Actually, let me take that back. The box design on the generic tretinoins can be a bit boring. They have plain old boxy letters and tired plain color schemes. So if it's important to you to have stylish graphic artwork in your medicine cabinet, then by all means, go for the Atralin.

The rest of us though, can take the money we save on our lifetime sex appeal in a tube and spend it wining and dining our soon to be many suitors.

Or come stalk me at the store.

Lucky you.


Eliza said...

Are you saying that I have been sold a bill of goods by the powers that be that my Renova is worth the kazillion-dollar markup over your garden variety Retin-A? That there is no good reason (save decades of local lore about poor-quality drinking water) for me to not hop over our southern border and load up on the even-cheaper-than-here generic?

I feel so used...and fine-line wrinkly.

PharmD Blogger said...

I always try to help my patients receive the best bang for their buck! If they can't afford pristiq, then we try venlafaxine and so forth. Great article Drug Monkey