Medications aren’t cheap. The reasons for this are many and complicated. For instance, research and development costs, coupled with government regulations, make it very costly for companies to bring new medications to market. Those are understandable reasons for increased medication costs.
On the other end, there are organizations involved in distribution of medicines that severely limit market forces. This unfairly limits competition and raises costs. Sometimes, as in the unfortunate case of the EpiPen a couple of years ago (a medication for dangerous allergies), it appeared that the cost increase was largely motivated by greed.
I’m only scratching the surface of a discussion on medication cost. It’s really a topic for a column (or book) all its own. The complexities of medical economics don’t change the fact that when you get a prescription and go to the pharmacy, the sticker shock can be pretty remarkable. So what’s a patient to do?
First of all, it’s helpful to ask your physician about the cost up front and check whether or not your insurance will cover it. If the cost will be prohibitive, ask for other options. The truth is that many older, cheaper medications work as well as new, expensive products. Furthermore, their likely side effects are better known than those of new medicines. I believe that if an old medication works as well as a newer one, then it makes sense to use the older one.
Second, sometimes pharmaceutical companies have programs that help subsidize very expensive medications. It may be worth asking your physician if this is the case. Pharmaceutical sales representatives also have access to samples that can help those with limited ability to purchase their prescriptions, even if temporarily.
Third, some medications can be obtained at very low cost. While it would be inappropriate for me to name particular pharmacies, there are some that even offer some antihypertensives and antibiotics for free. A phone call to inquire about this can save a lot of money.
Finally, cost comparisons are available online at sites like GoodRx. Not only can you learn where to find the best deal, GoodRx allows you to print out coupons to help save even more money.
Many times, I’ve heard patients who did not take their prescribed medications say that it was simply too expensive. This is sometimes a problem. But in many cases their prescriptions were available at a significant discount — and all for the price of a little extra research.
So when you have that new prescription, don’t despair. There may be ways to get it a lot cheaper than you