Are People with IBS in the U.S. Having Difficulty with Access to Certain Medications?

The pharmaceutical company Mylan has received intense negative publicity recently over significant price increases for Epipens, epinepherine autoinjectors for use in life-threatening allergic reactions. However, the University of North Carolina Center for Functional GI and Motility Disorders also shared on social media an NBC News article that claims many other Mylan-supplied prescription medications have also experienced significant price increases over time. These include dicyclomine (Bentyl), an antispasmodic used by many people with IBS  and metoclopramide (Reglan), a prokinetic commonly prescribed, among many other uses,  for  gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and other gastrointestinal conditions that may coexist with IBS.  As both are generic drugs, each has several suppliers. Not all individuals using these medications receive them from Mylan, but as one generally has no control over the specific distributor used by a given pharmacy, this issue is a potential concern.

Also, a moderator of a large Internet support group passed along an August 12, 2016 blog post from the website GoodRx.com detailing the removal of numerous prescription drugs from the 2016 formulary lists of Express Scripts and Caremark. Express Scripts and Caremark are both companies that administer pharmacy benefits and mail-order pharmacy services for U.S. health insurance companies, self-insuring employers and in the case of Express Scripts, TRICARE, the insurance system for active, reserve or retired U.S. military personnel, some National Guard members, and military family dependents. The formularies are lists of specific medications approved for coverage. In the U.S.,health insurance is traditionally an employer-based benefit for the largest subset of citizens and residents, and typically,  employees have limited or no choice in the specific insurance plans offered to them and/or their families. Thus, again, one would most likely have no control over which of the two companies with which one’s insurance provider has a contract. From the linked lists, it appears lubiprostone (Amitiza), a chloride channel activator, which is FDA approved in the U.S. for use by women with irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS-C), has been newly excluded from the Caremark formulary. Duloxetine (Cymbalta), a selective serotonin-norepinephine reuptake inhibitor is used by some people with IBS for pain and/or commonly coexisting depression and/or anxiety. It has also newly been dropped by Caremark. This issue would also appear to merit possible concern.

So IBS Impact asks U.S. readers, are these media reports consistent with real world experiences? Are people with IBS having problems getting access to medications they take regularly? If so, is either of these reported issues a widespread, systemic problem for individuals or certain subgroups in the IBS community? Please feel free to leave comments on this post.

 

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