The outrageous pricing of prescription drugs continues…
One of my favorite health news websites is Kaiser Health News (not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente). This year they started a new feature called Bill of the Month.
Every month they highlight a particularly egregious healthcare charge.
(Have one you want to share? Submit it to them!)
Last month was a $17,850 urinalysis; this month is a $1,500 treatment for toenail fungus (one month supply and the patient needs 11!).
Stories like these make me angry and frustrated. I’m lucky I don’t need any prescriptions (yet), but these costs drive up everyone’s health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs. And my husband needs his daily thyroid medication. It’s already increased in price. What if it becomes unaffordable for average people, like insulin has for diabetics? It’s a scary thought, and a reality for many.
Related post: Why do prescription drugs cost so much?
More than ever, the burden is on the patient to ask about drug prices and do some comparison shopping.
Don’t assume a prescription drug is absolutely necessary. Ask your doctor about other options, such as:
- Lifestyle changes—Diet, exercise, & talk therapy can eliminate the need for many popular & pricey prescription drugs, for example statins, sleeping pills, high blood pressure pills, antidepressants and antacids.
- Generics—Even generics are increasing in price, but they are still the go-to choice if you want a cheaper (and sometimes safer) drug.
- Over-the-Counter (OTC) drugs—In particular, many allergy medications and drugs to treat acid reflux disease (GERD) are cheaper without a prescription.
- Home remedies—What would I do instead of buying a $1,500 foot fungus treatment? I’d try Listerine or Vick’s VapoRub.
Related post: Deprescribing prescription drugs
Don’t assume your doctor knows how much a drug costs. They are often as surprised as the patient at a prescription’s price tag! Saving money is your job, so:
- Get a hard copy of the prescription—The trend is for your doctor’s office to immediately email a prescription to your local pharmacy, but prices can vary dramatically from one pharmacy to another. Take the prescription and then shop around.
- Use an online pricing tool to compare prices—GoodRX is one example, and I have others listed on my Resources page. These tools not only show you a range of prices in your area, but offer coupons and money-saving tips.
- Talk to your insurance company—It’s important to understand how your insurance company covers prescription medications. Do you have a copay? Is the drug generic or a higher-cost specialty drug? Because of high drug prices, many insurance companies offer member support to help you find the least expensive option.
- Look for a prescription drug assistance program—These programs, usually offered by the drug makers, can make high-cost drugs more accessible. I have listed several programs on my Resources page.
Drug costs aren’t going to come down anytime soon. To save money on prescriptions you have to pay attention, be informed and take charge.
It’s not easy, and arguably it’s not fair, but I hope these tips help.