Expensive prescription drugs are a leading reason healthcare costs have skyrocketed over the last decade. Direct to consumer advertising (DTC), which is prohibited everywhere else in the world, including Europe, is a problem. Every magazine you read or TV show you watch, drug companies are encouraging you to ask your doctor if this drug or that drug is right for you.
Americans are confused. I once had a female patient ask me for a prostate medicine while a non cigarette smoking patient asked me for a medicine to quit smoking. Why did they ask? Because they were told to talk to their physician about the medications.
Needless to say I informed them the medicine was not appropriate for them. However, many other patients come in with magazine ads, coupons and specific requests for name brand medicines, which usually have poor insurance coverage and cost in excess of $100/month. I routinely don’t prescribe these unless their is a good reason and no other alternative.
If you take prescription drugs, it is likely you are paying too much for them. Even if you have “good” insurance, there may be a way to save hundreds or thousands of dollars per year if you follow these simple tips.
1. Ask for a generic medicine when at all possible. These medicines usually have the same potency as name brand drugs and will do just fine. The price difference is enormous. Even if your insurance “covers” the medicine, we all pay with our monthly insurance premiums.
example:Compare the blood pressure medicine HCTZ (hydrochlorothiazide), a diuretic, which costs about 13 cents a pills compared to a new blood pressure medicine, Tekturna, which costs $2.93 each pill. Now, Tekturna may be appropriate for some with high blood pressure, it should NOT be used as first line as there are many other less expensive meds to use first. 1 year of HCT is $47.45 while 1 year of Tekturna, $1069 (a nice vacation for you)
2. Call your insurance company and ask if they have a mail order pharmacy you can mail your prescription to ( ie. http://www.express-scripts.com , http://www.rxsolutions.com are a few examples). When you order this way, you will usually get a 3 month supply mailed to your home for the price of 2 copays, or 3 free months of prescriptions each year. In addition, no more monthly visits to the pharmacy.
3. If you use your local pharmacy, ask what the cash price is for the drug. It is not uncommon for the copay to cost more than the cash price and most pharmacies will be more than happy to accept your $15 or $20 copay instead of having you pay the $5 to $10 dollar cash price. Sad but true.
example:I had a patient this week come in for a diabetic check. He told me he was only taking one of his diabetic medications and couldn’t afford both. His copay was $15 for each generic. I called Costco (you don’t need to be a member to buy drugs at these stores), asked for the cash price of the medicines. A 1 month supply of Glipizide (Glucotrol) was $6.15 and the Glucophage (Metformin) $10.60. By not using his insurance, he would save $14/month or $168 year. I immediately directed him to Costco. Walgreens and Rite-Aid also probably had prices lower than his co-pay.
I hope you can keep more of your money instead of giving it to drug companies. Like I tell my patients, “I am sure you could use the money more than they can”. I am sure you agree!