By Dr. Tim Bartholow
Generic drugs are no longer the universal, affordable alternative. Over 50% of generics rose in price during the last two years. In fact, price increases up to 1,000% make some generics more expensive than some brand drugs.
Branded "me-too" (often heavily advertised) drugs are also a price problem. They offer no therapeutic or safety advantage over existing, lower-cost, branded drugs, and yet they cost 30-40% higher.
Why the high prices?
To be fair, some of these new drugs are very effective, and are going to be expensive. But I just don't understand costs that block many patients from being able to access these drugs.
I'm like you; ever-growing drug prices deeply disappoint me. At some level, this becomes more about profits than people. But as a doc, it's not just the high prices that concern me. It's how sky-high prices alter the course of treatment.
High-priced drugs can make us sick
The average cost of drugs used to be around 10% of total health care expenditures. Drugs are now 23% of those total costs.
When patients can't afford their prescription, guess what? They skip treatments-here, there or altogether. This leads to health complications, which in turn adds unnecessary cost and suffering.
Smart consumers should take action. Here are 3 things you can do today.
#1: Look for drug discount programs
Employers and employees should seek out discount drug programs, not just to save short-term dollars but to protect their long-term health.
Your current health plan or local pharmacy probably has a program that offers savings on brand name and generic prescription medications - even if those drugs are not covered by your insurance. For example, we offer the WEA Trust iRx Discount Program.
So start investigating today.
#2: Make healthy lifestyle changes
Taking a pill is too convenient. Sometimes, we choose to pay the drug price because we don't want to pay the real price - making changes.
By making healthier choices, we can improve or even reverse conditions like blood pressure, high cholesterol, some diabetic conditions and other conditions-without drugs.
It all starts by being honest with ourselves and our doctors.
#3: Don't forget the basics
Some prescription medications require preauthorization before your health plan will cover the costs. Get familiar with your insurer's preauthorization list to avoid unnecessary out-of-pocket costs.
As I mentioned above, the health care consequences and costs of NOT taking needed, appropriate medication can be more expensive than the drug itself. Adhere to your drug regimen that you and your doctor crafted together, and review your medications with your doctor at least yearly.
Shop, compare, and take care.