Extreme Couponing for Prescription Drugs continued...
All retail drug stores have a discount generic drug program. “This is a good place to start, and you don’t need insurance to participate,” Gill says. Some programs are free and others have minimal costs.
Manufacturers also have assistance programs to help offset drug costs. “Read the fine print,” she says. “Many expire or have limits, so if the medication is something you will be taking for years, this may only be a short-term solution.”
Harry Schiavi heads a New York City-based consulting firm that deals with reimbursement of prescription drugs. As such, these are issues he grapples with daily.
Don’t sell the drug companies short, he says. “There may be an awareness issue with regard to the amount of assistance that manufacturers are providing to patients for their pharmacy costs,” he says. “As insurance co-pays are going up for insured consumers, some pharmaceutical companies are increasing the eligibility levels for patient out-of-pocket assistance.”
Pill Splitting Not Always OK
Randy Wexler, MD, says the new poll findings mirror what he sees and hears in his practice. He is an associate professor of family medicine and the vice chair of clinical affairs at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.
“I had one patient who would not see a specialist due to cost, even though a test suggested they had cancer,” he says. And “every day someone asks if they need to take all of their prescribed medications due to cost.”
This is not just affecting senior citizens. “This is more common in the elderly, but we are seeing it more and more in younger individuals because the cost of health care has gotten so high,” he says.
Wexler has a social worker on staff that spends the biggest chunk of her day price-shopping for patients. “We know that the lower the drug costs, the higher the compliance," he says. “There are times we have to say, ‘This is your condition, this is the money you have to work with, this is what can be forgone.’”
Some people may split pills to save money. This is not always OK. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist before splitting pills,” he says. And “it’s never OK to take medication prescribed to someone else."