Hospitals resort to new methods to cut drug costs

When physicians at the University Hospitals healthcare system in Cleveland use the electronic prescribing system to provide a particularly pricey drug to a patient, the name of the medication pops up accompanied by five dollar signs, according to The Washington Post.

That's how the Midwest healthcare giant has been trying to combat the ever-rising price of drugs, the newspaper reports. The message to doctors is think about prescribing a less expensive alternative, according to the article. In many instances, relatively new drug companies are buying up rights to medications that have been on the market for years, then raising their prices by many multiples.

Among those drugs earning the five-dollar sign ratings are Nitropress and Isuprel, injectable heart medications that rose more than 200 percent and 500 percent in price last year after their rights were acquired by Valeant Pharmaceuticals. The Cleveland Clinic saw a rise in prices for two heart medications drive up drug costs by $8 million last year, according to the Post.

The University of Utah healthcare system dealt with the increase in Isuprel slightly differently, pulling the drug off mobile drug carts, essentially compelling physicians who want it to make a special order, according to the Post.

Other hospitals have been enlisting pharmacists to closely manage drugs being dispensed at discharge in order to try and reduce the rate of readmissions, cutting overhead costs in another manner.

Such price rises, along with ongoing shortages of medication staples have prompted some hospitals to ration drugs, raising questions about the ethical reasoning behind some of those approaches.

To learn more:
- read The Washington Post article