This past year 131 million Americans took a prescription drug and the out of pocket expenses for those drugs were over 4.5% higher than last year. The inability to afford prescription drugs is a prime reason for patients to simply stop taking their medications but that can be dangerous.
- Make sure you know how much the prescribers know the cost of the prescription. Prescribers very often do not know how much medications cost so they make decisions without fully considering that factor. If cost is important to you, make sure they know.
- Ask for generic medications which have similar blood concentrations and are much less costly.
- Ask whether you can take a combination pill and get a 90 day supply instead of a 30 day supply so your copays are lower but if you are paying for the drugs entirely on your own, get smaller day supplies so you’re not laying out as much money up front and ask for individual drugs instead of combination drugs which are usually more expensive.
- Ask if you can get a higher dose and then split the pill in half. A double dose tablet usually is only slightly more expensive than the lower dose tablet.
- If you do all these things and still cannot afford your medications, review your insurance options. Your old plan might not be the best for your new health state and you may now qualify for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act which gives you newer options to consider for coverage.
- See if you qualify for Medication Assistance Programs. Each pharmaceutical company has a program for people who cannot afford their medications; if you qualify they will send the medications to your prescriber free of change.
- See if you qualify for community based programs. Several organizations raise money to help people afford coverage for a specific disease.
- Chronic disease like hypertension and Type 2 Diabetes are worsened by obesity. Reducing body weight toward normal is an inexpensive way to reduce your need for drug therapy and it helps you live longer and feel better.
What not to do:
- Stop taking your medicine without your doctor of pharmacist knowing it. The $30 you save may result in death, injury, and higher medical and drug costs down the road. There are usually alternatives if you ask.
- Do creative dosing. Skipping every third dose, taking the drug only a week before seeing your doctor is not safe
- Buy drugs out of the back of someone’s truck or an unregulated internet site. You need to know that your pills have the right drug in them, are not contaminated, are not expired, and have the proper dosage. Internet pharmacies need to have the VIPPS (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site) seal.
- Start taking supplements without your doctor or pharmacist knowing it. Some supplements might be helpful, other are risky.
- Excessively mix pharmacies. You get more than a product from your pharmacist, you also get monitoring for correct dosing, drug interactions, and advice to allow you to take your drugs optimally. Balancing too many pharmacies can lead to errors, forgetting to refill your medications, and confusion.