I am currently a pharmacy student, and although I have not yet dispensed a medication, I had my first experience concerning the cost of care a few months ago. My ear hurt very badly when I woke up in the morning, and being that I had to go to work later that evening, I decided to go to the local clinic in order to get my ear treated. The physician was able to diagnose the problem, and I was sent home with a prescription. I do not recall the name of the medication that I was prescribed, but I do remember my reaction when I went to pick it up at the drugstore. I was shocked when the pharmacist told me that the medication that I had been prescribed would cost me over two hundred dollars! Unfortunately, I was a college student with very little extra money, and I could not afford the medication, so I went home without it.
Once I got home, I realized that although my wallet was still intact and full, my ear still hurt. I called the pharmacy that I had just visited and asked them if they had any sort of alternative medication that I could use rather than the one that I had been prescribed. They replied that they did not have a generic brand that would work in place of the brand that I had been prescribed. Realizing that I simply could not afford the medication at the time, I made one more desperate attempt at purchasing a different medication by calling another pharmacy and asking them the same question. Much to my surprise, they told me that they did have a generic brand available for the prescription! I picked it up at the pharmacy shortly afterwards, and my ear felt significantly better once I used medication.
From my experience, I learned that the cost of care is a significant problem, and is a problem that I had never really considered until I was placed in a situation where it directly hindered my ability to pick up a prescription. Although my ear infection was far from life-threatening, the whole situation did bring to light the fact that I would have chosen to avoid treating my condition for no other reason than the high cost of my prescription had there not been a cheap generic brand available. I am certain that there are people in the world that have experienced the same feeling of shock that I felt when they have attempted to pick up medications at drugstores, only to find that they also cannot afford them. I would not be surprised to learn that the cost of care is what drives many people to go without medications or to avoid a trip to the hospital, even if their situations are more serious than mine was.
I was fortunate in that I only had a minor ear infection when I went to the clinic, and that there was a cheaper alternative available to the medication that I had been prescribed. For someone with a more serious condition, the cost of care could mean the difference between getting the treatment that they need or choosing to go without it and suffering the consequences. The cost of care can create a life or death situation for some people, and I just hope that if I ever experience a serious illness for which I cannot afford the treatment that I get lucky again and there is a cheaper alternative available.
This post originally appeared on the Costs of Care blog on October 27, 2014.