It’s no secret that the prices of pharmaceuticals have skyrocketed in the last two decades. Recently, the controversies over the pricing of Mylan’s EpiPen and the price gouging by Turing Pharmaceutical and Valeant Pharmaceuticals International have drawn attention to the predatory and inhumane pricing of drugs. In spite of this unwanted attention, the pharmaceutical companies have taken little action to curb their predatory pricing.
Lack of access to drugs means that many Americans are faced with the tough choice of simply not filling their prescription. Which means some Americans are skipping their life-saving medicine because they can’t afford it.
The good news is there are things we can do to save money on prescriptions. As in the previous chapter, these steps are not ideal, but they are stepping stones until we find a way to ensure that people have access the health and medicines they need to live.
Not long ago, Consumer Reports completed an analysis that involved secret shoppers investigating the pricing of individual prescriptions across the nation. Their research and analysis resulted in six tips to reduce the prices you pay for your medications, some of which were counter-intuitive:
- Skip pharmacy chains.
- Support independent pharmacies.
- Don’t assume you should always use your insurance. This one is really tricky, but Consumer Reports found that there are often price-hikes with drugs that are covered. Check before you buy and ask, “What is the cost of this drug if I don’t use my insurance?” The results can be surprising.
- Always ask, “Is this your lowest price?
- See if your doctor will write a prescription for a 90-day period, rather than 30. This will be more convenient and will lower your co-pay.
- Research online. Consumer Reports recommends checking the website, GoodRx.com to make sure the pharmacy you’re going to is offering the drug at its “fair price.” There are sites that offer prescriptions online, but make sure they’re legitimate.
In addition to the six tips above, you can also check your area and see if there are financial assistance programs available. Some community clinics offer generic prescriptions on a sliding scale depending on need. NPR recently highlighted financial assistance programs provided by foundations and drug companies. Online resources for investigating financial assistance that may be available to you are:
- NeedyMeds (www.NeedyMeds.org)
- Partnership for Prescription Assistance (www.pparx.org)
- Patient Services Inc. (www.PatientServicesInc.org)
- Patient Advocate Foundation's National Financial Resource Directory (www.PatientAdvocate.org)
First and foremost, remember to be your own advocate. Research and find support in your community, because, again, you are not alone. Millions of Americans are struggling with the price of their prescriptions, and there is strength in solidarity.
An excerpt from Life After Obama Care: A Practical Guide.