While families are struggling to make ends meet, having their medications cost nearly as much as their mortgage is causing a lot of financial hardship in our country. The AARP recently released a study that found the cost of specialty drugs rose by nearly 10% in 2015; to be fair, some commonly used generics also dropped by 19% during the same time period.
Why Do Some Pharmaceuticals Cost So Much?
Pharmaceutical companies tell us that the cost of the medicines is directly related to research and development. There is some truth to that; however, a study was released in 2016 examining the complexities of the pharmaceutical market. There were several interesting findings that have been identified as issues for US consumers:
- US pharmaceutical companies set their own prices – unlike the rest of the world.
- The US permits government-protected monopolies that keep some generic medications out of the market.
- The FDA is slower to approve generics than name brands – often backlogged by 3-4 years.
- R&D only accounts for 10% of medication costs – making the argument that these high prices support R&D invalid.
Doesn’t Insurance Cover the Cost?
Patients like to think that when they acquire health insurance, they will be spared the high cost of medications. Did you know that only 35% of medications are covered by most insurance plans? In 2015, a survey reflected that most households spent around $800 out of pocket for their health insurance. Many people assume that Medicaid and Medicare will cover all of their medicines as well; that’s not the case either. This is why so many of us, as pharmacists, offer the free drug savings cards to help our clients find a way to afford their prescriptions.
How Can I Save Money on Medicines?
While the cost of medication continues, there are still ways to save on prescriptions. Here are some suggestions you can offer to your pharmacy clients:
- Sign up for the free drug savings card.
- Switch to generics whenever your prescribing physician finds it appropriate.
- Talk to your doctor about doubling the dosage of your prescription but taking only half what it says on the label to save on co-pays.
- Check out mail-order pharmacy discounts, especially if your pharmacy partners will a company like ExpressScripts.
- Ask the doctor for a free sample.
Work needs to be done to help make medication affordable for the patients who need it. As pharmacists, we do not have control over the costs of the medications we dispense, but we can share our knowledge of the industry to advise our clients of the most affordable solutions to ensure adherence to their prescription regimens.