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'I'm paying $60 a month for cherry syrup' | Family battles rising cost of daughter's heart medication

Matt Norris said he saw the cost of his daughter's heart medication go up three times overnight. He wanted to see if he could do something about it.

ATLANTA — If you’ve had to fill a prescription lately, you’ve probably discovered drugs are skyrocketing. Medical experts said in the last two years, we’ve been hit with the highest spike in costs they’ve ever seen.

So, what do you do when the cost of a medication that keeps your child alive suddenly triples in cost?

Matt Norris said he saw the cost of his daughter's heart medication go up three times overnight. He wanted to see if he could do something about it.

It's hard for Norris to think about what his daughter can't do now.

"She can't ride horses anymore, she can't exercise as much. She has to limit what she does," he said. 

After her heart stopped in 2021, Audrey's life changed a lot.

The 14-year-old has to take medication twice a day, every day, to keep it going. And she doesn't want to swallow a pill, she wants the liquid version.

"If that makes her slightly happier, I'm going to try to do it," he said. 

However, that liquid medicine used to cost $20 a month. It went up to $60 when he picked up her prescription Wednesday. 

The drug is a compound that the pharmacist binds with cherry syrup, so Audrey can swallow it.

When Norris looked it up online, it looks like the extra $40 charge is for the syrup.

"And I start laughing because it looks like the way it's coded that I'm paying $60 a month for cherry syrup," he said. 

Norris and his wife are teachers. They're insured through the state plan, which uses CVS Caremark.

The company did not return 11Alive's request for comment. Norris said when he called, the company's response didn't make much sense.

"If she's got to take this medicine twice a day, the rest of her life, I don't think it should be out of the realm that she should get the liquid form and not have to pay an extra triple price and with no notice," he said. 

Tracey Pharmacy filled the prescription, and Dr. Shari Drury said the cost of prescription medication has overwhelmed many of her patients.

"Obviously it's very frustrating. In some cases it's their parents, in some cases, it's their children. And it's frustrating if you can't do without it," Dr. Druy said. "If you can't do without it, you have to figure out what you can do without. And that's food or rent. Necessities. It's been very hard on a lot of people." 

The Journal of American Medicine found Prescription Drug Prices in the U.S. have risen 11% every year since 2008.

"It's a global issue, and there's not someone to call and complain specifically to. So it's very frustrating for patients because they can't figure out where to go with it, and sometimes it's just a dead-end. And that's really frustrating," Dr. Drury said. 

However, Norris said he's going to keep trying, so his daughter can have the medication she needs.

"And so I think I've decided to hold my ground on cherry syrup now. It just doesn't make sense," he said. 

Dr. Drury suggested three tips to try and lower your prescription drug cost: 

  • Ask your doctor if there's a generic version.
  • Ask if there's a discount card for the drug you need. 
  • Appeal to your insurance company directly. 

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