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Drugmakers Turn Cheap Generics Into Expensive Pills

Pernix Therapeutics, which sells Treximet, says the drug addressed an unmet need among migraine sufferers...

Kendall Jack was dismayed when her health plan stopped covering her migraine drug Treximet earlier this year. To buy a pack at the pharmacy would cost $750, compared with a $20 copay when the drug was covered.

“Nothing’s worth $750 for nine pills,” she said. “It’s cruel.”

Instead, the 50-year-old stay-at-home mother from Memphis, Tenn., takes Treximet’s two active ingredients—sumatriptan and naproxen—as separate pills. For these two generic drugs, her copay is zero.

A spokesman for Pernix Therapeutics Holdings Inc., which sells Treximet, said the drug addressed an unmet need among migraine sufferers by combining sumatriptan and naproxen into a single tablet. He also said Mrs. Jack could get a pack of Treximet for $20 by contacting the company directly.

Treximet is just one of many drugs whose active ingredients are generic drugs that can be purchased separately at a fraction of the cost. Others include acne cream Acanya, Duexis for rheumatoid pain and weight-loss pill Qsymia, according to data compiled for The Wall Street Journal by GoodRx, a group that compares pharmacy prices for prescription drugs.

A spokesman for Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc., which makes Acanya, said doctors could prescribe whichever medication they believe is most appropriate for their patients. Valeant is one drugmaker that has come under fire amid a broader eruption of public anger at drug companies for sharp price increases in recent years.

A spokesman for Horizon Pharma PLC, maker of Duexis...