Usually, a person takes a prescription drug to improve their health and extend their life, so when the price of such a drug goes up, they are understandably upset. In Washington state, a very different kind of drug has surged in price — a lethal medication some terminally ill patients use to end their lives. Taking matters into their own hands, doctors have developed a new mix of medications that can help legally induce death for a fraction of the price.

Last year, Valeant Pharmaceuticals International of Quebec acquired the rights to an original drug with the brand name Seconal. The medication was the most commonly prescribed drug to aid dying patients. When Valeant immediately jacked up the price from $1,500 to more than $3,000, patients considering the drug were devastated, according to Beth Glennon, a client-support coordinator for End of Life Washington.

“People were horrified,” she told The Seattle Times. “They were daunted. They thought it was criminal. The cost increase has been significant for some people. Some are on a very fixed income.”

Doctors with the End of Life advocacy group decided to concoct an alternative to the now pricy Seconal. The resulting medication — a mixture of phenobarbital, chloral hydrate, and morphine sulfate — could be combined with alcohol, water, or juice. Best of all? It went for about $500.

“We thought we could concoct an alternative that would work as well,” said Dr. Robert Wood, a University of Washington HIV/AIDS researcher who does volunteer work with the group. “It does work as well.”

As of 2014, at least 725 adults had chosen to end their lives with a prescribed dose of lethal medication in Washington. Wood said the new drug burns the mouth, tastes worse, and may take longer to work than Seconal, but about one-third of the patients seen by End of Life in Washington last year chose it over the more expensive medication.

Many patients are left to pay for life-ending drug treatment themselves. Health insurance will often refuse to cover drugs not paid for by Medicare, and Washington’s Medicaid plan nor Catholic health systems will cover life-ending drugs. Many of these patients were worried about burdening their families with the cost of the expensive medication choice.

The new alternative drug has now spread to Oregon, where patients have already injected it under the state’s Death with Dignity Act. Doctors from Washington have also been in talks with colleagues in California, which just passed a right-to-die law last year. California is the fifth state to legalize the practice, after Oregon, Washington, Vermont, and Montana.

Valeant, along with another pharmaceutical company, faced inquiry this year after the release of several documents detailing how the companies had upped prices to gain revenue from new medications, including some life-saving drugs.

“Many companies are lining their pockets at the expense of the most vulnerable families in our nation,” Rep Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said in a statement after releasing documents before a hearing on rising drug prices.