Dealing With the High Cost of Drugs

It is a problem that physicians encounter from time to time – patients who don’t take their medications as prescribed. Sometimes it could be from carelessness or forgetfulness, but sometimes the reason for not taking medication is a little more serious.

Sometimes it is the high cost of the drugs that prevents patients from getting medications. They simply cannot afford the drugs. Even the price of generic drugs is becoming so high, along with high copayments, that patients who are insured have difficulty affording the drugs.

Moreover, newer drugs coming on the market are among the most expensive. Cancer drugs, for example, can cost more than $100,000 a year.

Often, this problem goes unnoticed by the physician. Doctors are often not aware of the cost of the drugs they prescribe, and patients are reluctant to talk about the issue. Often, patients don’t realize that they cannot afford the drug until they are standing at the pharmacy window, and when they find out the price, they simply walk away.

But medical experts say that physicians need to be more aware of drug costs, and bring up the issue with the patient, to find out if they can afford the medication.

There are also other actions a physicians can take. For example, they can find out what medication assistance resources are available. Drug companies and foundations have established patient assistance programs such as AmeriCares, a drug discount operation, as well as others like NeedyMeds. And there is the government 340B program, which enables certain medical facilities to buy drugs at lower prices.

Another alternative to look at is the choice of drugs. Many times physicians are prescribing the newest, most expensive form of a drug, when there is an older, generic and cheaper version of the same medication, and just as effective.

But physicians need to make more of an effort to stay abreast of generic drug costs because even the price of generics is climbing rapidly. Moreover, there are significant disparities in costs depending on the drug maker and the pharmacy. For that reason also, physicians need to establish relationships with pharmacists who can keep the physicians up to date on drug cost information.

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