When it comes to prescription drugs, a generic drug will always be cheaper than a brand-name drug, right? Not necessarily.

A number of pharmaceutical companies may have worked together to fix prices on their drugs. Such arrangements have helped the companies immensely. Such arrangements have also hurt their customers.

How extensive were these arrangements? Massive. The arrangements allegedly involved 300 drugs and at least sixteen companies. “This is most likely the largest cartel in the history of the United States,” said Joseph Nielsen, who is an assistant attorney general and an antitrust investigator in Connecticut.

High prices can keep people from much-needed treatment and make their conditions worse. It can create impossible choices, forcing financially disadvantaged people to choose among medicine, food, rent, or utilities.

According to investigators, pharmaceutical companies met and worked with each other to agree on certain prices for certain drugs. They used specialized lingo such as sandbox, a term referring to the market for generic drugs, and agreed to follow specific rules and set specific rules within the sandbox.

Consumers have paid more for generic drugs lately. Used for asthma, the generic drug albuterol has become more expensive in recent years. The price of the drug rose from thirteen cents for a single tablet to over $4.70, still just for one pill.

Such price increases also exist for brand-name drugs. The drug company Mylan received extensive criticism when it increased the price for its EpiPen by around 400 percent. EpiPen is the brand name for epinephrine, a medication used to treat allergic reactions. At the time, no generic version of the EpiPen was available for consumer purchase, but generic versions did emerge later.

Perhaps exposure can help fix this situation. Investigators in U.S. states started a lawsuit relating to two drugs. This lawsuit has become the widespread lawsuit investigating several companies and some drugs discussed earlier in this blog post. The investigators have also been discussing their findings about generic drugs and pharmaceutical companies with the press.

Maybe publicity, criticism, and legal action can change such practices. This could create more transparency and fairness and possibly lower prices.