If you are taking prescription medication, chances are you are paying more for the drug this month than you did 10 years ago.
It’s a fact. Prices for the most popular brands of drugs have risen by more than 200 percent – and in some cases much more – since 2008.
The reasons are varied. The arguments over how to cut the prices are all over the board, but one Memphis man is quietly changing the way those who can least afford quality healthcare manage to get the medications they need.
Gospel music hall of famer Tommy Cathey is one such patient. Watching him play, you wouldn’t know it, but he’s in pain.
He was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Earlier this year, his doctor gave him a new medication.
“Leflumenide. That’s a three-month supply,” he told FOX13’s Darrell Greene.
The new medicine worked wonders, but the price did not.
“If I’d got that at any other pharmacy, it was going to cost me about $600,” he explained.
Cathey found Good Shepherd Pharmacy. The price changed drastically.
“It sounds too good to be true,” he said. “(It’s) $101 for three months.
FOX13 went to the so-called wonder pharmacy. It’s tucked away on the third floor of a blank brick building in the Medical District.
Good Shepherd Pharmacy is changing lives one mail order at a time.
“Our biggest problem has been for the first three years, people say it's too good to be true,” pharmacist Phil Baker told FOX13.
"We opened September 2015 with about 200 medications that were free – for people who are low income and uninsured,” he continued. "In our first three years, we have reclaimed and we dispensed over $12 million worth of those medications that would have otherwise ended up in the landfill."
A membership to Good Shepherd Pharmacy is $40 per month per person, or $70 per family.
Phil sells drugs at cost or below, and sometimes he even gives them away.
"The mark up on prescriptions, people know it's bad, but they really don't know how bad,” Baker said.
“A really good example of that is Chlopedigril – which is generic for Plavix, which is one of the most commonly prescribed blood thinners in the country right now. 30 of these at a regular pharmacy around town will run you anywhere from $50-250. The cost on these? What we sold them for is less than $1.50."
The $1.50 cost was for a 30-day supply.
There are no opioids. No drugs that require a federal license and oversight.
All the drugs on the shelves are either donated by pharmaceutical companies or by people through an unprecedented donation program.
To Phil's knowledge, Good Shepherd, which has 501 C 3 status as a charity, is the only pharmacy of its kind. The only money made is through the memberships, not on the drugs.
And sometimes, that's still not enough.
"There was even a period (I) didn't have enough money in the bank to pay my employees for six weeks, and nobody quit,” Baker said while tearing up. “No one quit."
For people like Miss Mary, there are often hard decisions to make.
"Do I pay my medicines, or do I pay my rent,” she asked FOX13.
Mary has been a customer and a volunteer at Good Shepherd for more than a year.
"This is a ministry, and God blessed him with the vision of good shepherd,” she said of Phil Baker. “I'm a true believer."
So is Tommy Cathey.
"I'm not ready to stop. I wanna keep playing,” he said. "And they afforded me the opportunity to be able to continue to play my bass guitar."
Phil Baker wants to take the Good Shepherd model nationwide, and he also has another dream called Remidi Chain. It would make cancer drugs left over from treatment available to patients in need – at a drastically reduced cost.
If you would like more information on how to use Good Shepherd Pharmacy, CLICK HERE.