Even with good health insurance, many individuals find it difficult to afford expensive prescription medications. In fact, according to a recent report from Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA), spending for prescription drugs over the past seven years has skyrocketed to 73 percent. As a result, many patients resort to do-it-yourself pill splitting and skipping doses in an attempt to stretch their prescription dollars.
A driving force behind prescription drug prices is the high cost of patent-protected drugs. For instance, although patent-protected prescription drugs made up less than 10 percent of all prescriptions filled, they accounted for 63 percent of drug spending. By contrast, a whopping 83 percent of prescriptions filled were for generic drugs, only 37 percent of prescription drug spending, according to the report.
Opt for Generics whenever Possible
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), generic drugs are identical in dosage, strength, intended use, effectiveness, safety and quality to brand-name drugs, yet cost significantly less. Two generic examples listed from the BCBSA report each cost a fraction of their brand-name equivalents: atorvastatin – better known as Lipitor and irbesartan – marketed under the brand name Avapro. Whenever possible, medical care providers should prescribe or recommend generic drugs. Likewise, patients should ask pharmacists about the availability of generic alternatives to brand-name drugs.
Safe Pill Splitting
Although DIY pill-splitting can be detrimental to patients’ health, Patients may be able to save on prescription drugs by obtaining higher strength prescriptions from their doctors of medications that can safely be split. If so, patients can obtain two lower doses at a reduced cost. However, as mentioned above, DIY pill splitting is not advisable. Many such medications are frequently pre-scored for splitting, and pill splitters can be obtained inexpensively at local drug stores.
Mail Order Meds
Many insurance providers allow patients to opt for mail-order prescription medications at significant savings. However, mail order meds should be ordered from pharmacies located in the United States that are licensed by the state board of pharmacy and which have a licensed pharmacist on staff to answer questions, according to the FDA. The pharmacy should also require a prescription from a doctor before selling prescriptions. (A list of state boards of pharmacy can be found at nabp.pharmacy).
Other Cost-Saving Strategies
Patients should ask their physicians for 90-day prescriptions whenever possible. This allows patients to obtain a three-month supply of meds with a single co-pay. Finally, patients and doctors should review prescriptions every six months to determine whether some medications can be reduced or dropped.
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