Saturday, August 25, 2012

Those Terrible Drug Compaines and What You Can Do to Save Money on Medications

It is easy to become enraged about cost of medicines in the US ; especially when you can get the same medication in other countries for a fraction of the amount.   Recently I prescribed a medication commonly advertised on TV.  Thirty pills cost over $700.  "This is outrageous", I agreed with the patient. Can they really expect people to pay this much!  Well before we light up the torches, grab our ropes, pitch forks, and gather all towns-people to hunt down this monster, lets think about this and extrapolate the consequences.  Here's another drug story.

There is a drug called cochicine for gout that has been around for a million years.  You could buy a fist full for less than a dollar. Then something strange happened.  Suddenly, this generic drug became unavailable. It turns out the company making this generic drug could not thrive because of the low profit margin.    In both cases, medication was essentially unavailable for opposite reasons.

Pharmaceutical companies will charge what the market will bear.  If the regional consumer, insurance company and employer will pay, then the drug company will charge. Undoubtedly, these companies have been gluttonous . Budgets and profit margins need to be trimmed so savings can be passed on to the consumer. But lets not throw the baby out with the bath water.  Profit motive has led to discovery of wonderful life saving drugs.  The quality of our lives are much better because of medicines like antibiotics, cardiac drugs, cancer drugs etc..  I do believe government has a role to assist in the development if "orphan" drugs, vaccines, and to ensure our safety. But to have government take over as some have suggested would be counter productive.  (You have to also ask what government and what companies since many are international )

There are things individuals can do to save money on medications:
  • Don't be afraid to ask for samples at the doctors office.  We are happy to give them away when available. 
  • The trend now is coupons.  Some will reduce the cost of the drug to generic level.  Go to the company website for more information. 
  • Pharmacies have special pricing so shop around.  Some pharmacies offer free antibiotics and diabetic medications. 
  • Call your insurance company to find out if there are equivalent medications that would provide savings and ask your doctor at the tome of your next visit if substitution is advisable. 
  • And finally if you cannot afford medication, most drug companies will give them to you for free.  You will have to provide them with some type of financial disclosure. 
  • One more thing.  Stay healthy.  Sounds obvious but I can't tell how many people on inhalers still smoke, hypertensives who overuse salt and diabetics who frequent all you can eat buffets. Most people can reduce the number of medications taken  by using a little common sense.

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