More than 45 million Americans lack health insurance-approximately 15% of the population. Are you one of them? According to Katharine Greider, author of The Big Fix , in 2000, 29% of Americans failed to fill a prescription because they could not afford the prescription. The cost of prescription drugs escalates at four times the rate of inflation. What can the average American do to keep up?
Some patients ask their doctors for free samples-but that only works for so long. Others stretch their medication, taking one pill every other day instead of every day, putting their health at risk. According to a report released by Families USA, the average senior citizen spent $1205 per year on prescription drugs in the year 2000-that’s more than $100 per month, out of pocket. And the costs continue to rise.
For senior citizens on Medicare, government prescription drug reforms help-but also bring increased Medicare premiums and limitations. In 2004 Medicare premiums increased by 17.5%–the largest increase in history-and the new prescription drug coverage for the lowest-income seniors is limited to $600 per year.
And what about people under 65? Middle class families? Children? There are so many gaps in the system. There are some strategies that take the bite out of prescription drug costs, though.
Buy generic. You’ve heard the advice before, and there’s a reason why: it’s worthwhile. Generic drugs have the same drug ingredients as name brand drugs, although they may have different coatings and fillers (which do not affect the drug itself). The average generic drug costs 30-65% less than name brand drugs-a substantial savings for you. Ask your doctor for generics whenever possible.
Buy in bulk. Ask your doctor to write a 90 day supply prescription, and order through the mail. For instance, a prescription for Levoxyl (a common thyroid medication) costs $13.99 for a 30 day supply at a local pharmacy-but only $29.97 for a 90 day supply through a bulk mail-order company such as Drugstore.com. Your savings? $12.00. Some pharmacies offer extra savings for new or transferred prescriptions as well: Drugstore.com gives you $10 off when you bring a new or transferred prescription, upping your savings to $22. And you save your time and gas money going to the pharmacy. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy gives a list of approved mail-order pharmacies that meet state and federal requirements.
Ask for samples. Drug companies FLOOD doctors with samples for new drugs. The average drug company spends $21,000 PER DOCTOR on drug promotion. This includes advertising, free samples, free promotional items, conferences (that are free for physicians to attend) and so on. The pharmaceutical industry spends an incredible amount of money promoting their products. One way that money can trickle down to you is through free samples. It never hurts to ask your doctor for some samples, and many doctors will give you an entire month’s supply.
While high prescription drug costs are here to stay, savvy consumers can work to lower prescription costs and find a way to stay healthy and keep a fat wallet.
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