Nation’s college campuses see rising birth control prices

Despite rising prices at campuses across the country, the Health Center is doing its best to save students money on contraceptives, a pharmacist said. Birth control prices have risen at campuses across the nation because of the Deficit Reduction Bill of 2005, which raised the fees drug manufacturers pay to participate in Medicaid. This resulted in companies not being able to offer as many prescription discounts to colleges.

Frank Calhoon, the Health Center pharmacist, said TCU was previously able to get subsidized birth control pills so they could sell them at a cheaper price, but the manufacturers have canceled those contracts.

Some prices have gone up from $15 to $40 at other campuses, Calhoon said.

“Over the past few years, the manufacturers have slowly canceled their contracts,” Calhoon said. “And we have had to find other avenues such as switching to generics.”

The other brands of birth control pills that have gone up in price within the past few years have been canceled and generic brands are being used instead, Calhoon said.

Calhoon said he found out Tuesday morning that the contract for the cheapest pill the Health Center has, Ortho Tri-cyclen Lo, is now null and void.

This is the only brand at the Health Center that will increase in price and there is no generic brand to offer at a lower price, he said.

The price change came about a year and a half ago, but the Health Center has a stockpile, so it is still able to offer Ortho Tri-cyclen Lo at the lower price of $22.50, Calhoon said.

He said the cost of the pill will not go up in price until the Health Center exhausts the contract supply. Then the price will probably at least double.

“We tried to order some last week, and the price already went up, and I told them not to order anymore yet,” Calhoon said. “It went from $500 a case to $3,000. We are still looking at trying to find the best price for the students.”

He said TCU has a contract with Bar Pharmaceuticals to get the pills at a cheaper price but the pricing is out of his control.

“I don’t think the price increase will affect people using it,” said Anne Lukowiak, a sophomore ballet and art history major. “I think it will affect people who are deciding to start birth control.”

At other pharmacies, brand-name birth control pills cost $50 to $55 and generics cost $35 to $40, Calhoon said.

He said the Health Center prices will stay under the prices of CVS and Walgreens. Ortho Tric-yclen Lo costs $54.99 at Walgreens.

Calhoon said the morning-after pill will probably go up in price soon, too. He said he has not heard what the final pricing will be, but it will be significantly more because it requires more packaging.

“It is not surprising since it is basically the same substance.” said Dr. Mary Rae, of the Health Center.

Another contraceptive option for students is the NuvaRing, which is a cheaper form of birth control that does not have many side effects, said Johnnie Ireland, a nurse practitioner at the Health Center.

“It seems to be working well and is well-accepted. We’ve done some informal questioning, and most students have said ‘absolutely.'” Rae said.

Calhoon said there are more than 35 different kinds of birth control.

Some students don’t think the higher prices are too detrimental.

“As long as there are low-priced options for students, I think it will be all right,” said Alicia Graber, a senior English major. “Brand loyalty will just be shot.”

Ireland said students will likely stay with the method that works for them regardless of the price.

Students are accepting of price increases and do not want the generic brands, Ireland said.

Calhoon said most students want the brand name.

He also said the prices could be a shock to transfers from state schools who get better pricing since state institutions have state pricing available to them. Ortho Tri-cyclen Lo costs $10 at The University of Texas at Arlington.