Hidden Medication Costs, a post on the Costs of Care blog, calls attention to prescription drug costs.' Three weeks before enrolling in Medicare, the author of the post began taking a new prescription for which there was a modest co-pay.' Three weeks later (now covered by a Medicare Part D plan), the same prescription had jumped to $279, all of which the author would now be responsible for paying.' Fortunately, there was a less-expensive, over-the-counter option available for only $14.79.' 'But," the author points out, "had I not asked, it would not have been offered.' And had I not had a plan that exposed the cost of the expensive prescription, I would not have asked.'' How are patients to know about less costly but effective alternatives? Should it be the responsibility of the patient to ask or of the doctor to research and to offer?' With wide variations in prescription co-pays, health plan coverage and drug costs at local or online pharmacies, how can anyone keep up?
Alternatives to brand name drugs also come with their own unique problems. Generics are required by law to look different than the drugs they are replacing, explains Gina Kolata in the New York Times article Pills Morph as Patients Try to Cope. ' And, because there can be several manufacturers of generic versions of a medication, patients' pills can look different month-to-month as their pharmacy switches between manufacturers. ' The result can be confusing, especially for patients who take multiple medications and become familiar with (and thus sometimes rely on) their pills' shape and color to know when to take them.' And as Kolata points out, 'When patients get confused, many stop taking their drugs.'
So what's a patient to do? ' First and foremost, talk to your health care providers. ' Ask your doctor if they know anything about potential costs or effective alternatives before he or she writes a prescription. ' Make calls to pharmacies and check out safe online sources to comparison shop for prescription prices before filling them. ' Your health insurance plan may also have information available online or by phone about which drugs will be covered.' Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you get confused about which pills to take and when, and talk to your doctor if you have concerns about side effects or continuing with any medications.