View Prevnar 13 ads with caution

prevnar 13Prevnar 13: As seen on TV

I was watching TV the other evening and, as usual, was forced to sit through multiple back-to-back prescription drug commercials.

One that caught my attention was for Prevnar 13, which is one of the pneumonia vaccines. (13 because it protects against 13 strains of streptococcus pneumonia.)

The commercial stated Prevnar 13 was for adults aged 50 and older.

That statement’s true, but needs some clarification.

Yes, Pfizer did get FDA approval a few years ago to market Prevnar 13 to adults over the age of 50. Previously, the vaccine was only used for infants and children.

However, Prevnar 13 and the other pneumonia vaccine, PneumoVax, are only recommended for adults aged 65 and older, unless there is a chronic health condition that warrants having the vaccine at a younger age.

What that means is that your insurance won’t pay for the vaccine at age 50. And it can cost upwards of $200!

Obamacare and preventive care

It’s common knowledge that Obamacare mandates health insurance companies to pay for some preventive health services 100%, with no out-of-pocket costs to the patient.

Many vaccines are covered because of the mandate. What many people don’t know, however, is that vaccines, like the pneumonia vaccines, are usually only covered for specific age groups. To save money and avoid being surprised by a costly medical bill, it’s important to know which vaccines are recommended at what age.

Related post: Adults need vaccinations, too!

Both these websites have good information about adult vaccination schedules:

For healthy adults, Prevnar 13 is recommended at age 65, followed by PneumoVax the following year (PneumoVax covers another 23 pneumonia strains).

Medicare Part B covers the cost of these vaccines.

If your physician recommends either pneumonia vaccine before you are 65, check with your insurance company. If you have a chronic health condition or a weak immune system, the vaccines might be covered.

DTC: Direct-to-Consumer advertising

Like many, I’m not a fan of the drug industry’s direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising. They claim it’s all about educating the masses, informing us about diseases and important treatment options.

Uh huh.

These are enormous, publicly-traded corporations that are continually seeking to improve profits. And billions of advertising dollars pay off.

Ads encourage patients to “talk to your doctor” about a new (and expensive) medication, and physicians admit they are more likely to prescribe brand-name drugs if patients ask for them.

Want a little more control over your healthcare costs? Don’t be a tool for the pharmaceutical industry. Watch DTC drug ads with a cautious eye.

Yes, there are worthwhile drugs such as the pneumonia vaccine, Prevnar 13. But the burden is on you, the healthcare consumer, to know the who, why, when and how much before you get stuck with the bill.


Frugal Nurse


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