April 10, 2000 (San Francisco) -- The long-standing relationship between doctors and drug companies is intended to serve mutual interests: Doctors need tested remedies with which to treat patients, and drug companies need a way to sell their tested remedies.
Meanwhile, the interests of the third party who actually pays for the drugs -- you, the patient -- are not well represented. Here are ways you can ensure your concerns will be addressed when you go to the doctor:
Recommended Related to Health Insurance & Medicare
Nearly 49 million Americans have no health insurance. Health care represents roughly $2.6 trillion or 18% of the nation’s budget, and costs continue to rise. People with pre-existing conditions can be denied coverage or be forced to buy expensive plans. The Medicare trust fund is expected to be unable to pay 100% of hospital insurance costs by 2024.
For these reasons and others, most policy makers agree that the health care system needs to be changed.
The health reform law passed in 2010, also...
1. Research your illness to see what types of drugs are used to treat it so that you can ask about alternative medications and even non-pharmaceutical remedies.
2. If your doctor prescribes a name-brand medication, ask whether generic versions are available. If your doctor voices reservations about generics, ask to be directed to research that discusses the drug and addresses these reservations.
3. Consider asking your doctor if he or she has any involvement with the company that makes the prescribed drug, particularly if you question the choice of medications. Keep in mind that some doctors direct clinical trials for drug companies. Others may accept research money from drug companies, serve as paid consultants, own stock in, or even sit on the boards of biotechnology and drug companies.
4. Be wary of drug samples. Free samples do serve as a quick and inexpensive way to allow patients to try a drug, but they also serve to introduce new, and perhaps more expensive, medications. Ask if equally effective treatments are already available.
Kristi Coale is a San Francisco-based freelance journalist who specializes in science and medical issues. Her work has appeared in Salon,Wired, and The Nation.