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The NSAID Drugs Prescriptions and Prices

Doctors and consumers have switched to other pain relievers following the removal from the market of Vioxx in September 2004, and amid safety concerns surrounding two other popular arthritis/pain drugs – Celebrex and Bextra. The sharpest rise in prescriptions has been for Mobic, a relatively expensive brand-name non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that was widely advertised as a Vioxx replacement in the fall of 2004 and in early 2005. Mobic prescriptions more than doubled in the past six months – from 314,000 in September to 742,000 in March 2005. Mobic’s price also jumped substantially – by 9% – in the same period. Prescriptions for generic ibuprofen – a Consumer Reports Best Buy Drug in this class – also climbed steadily (but far more slowly) through March, rising 28%. Ibuprofen’s price increased only slightly over the six months as did the price of naproxen, another low-cost generic and also a Best Buy. Both drugs cost less than $50 a month. Mobic costs more than $100 a month. The average retail price increase for all NSAID drugs (brand and generic) for the six-month period was 2.4%. The surge in Mobic prescriptions likely reflects promotions and ads for the drug, but may also be due to the belief among some doctors that Mobic might be easier on the stomach than other NSAIDs.