The high and ever-increasing cost of medications is becoming a real issue for some patients. In the U.S., patients have spent more than $350 billion on medications, which represents 10 percent of the total spending on healthcare in the country. Costs for drugs are rising at an annual rate of more than 4 percent.
It is not surprising that disgruntled patients vent their frustration most frequently to their pharmacists. Coping with high drug costs is a vexing problem for many patients; however, there are things pharmacists can do to address patient complaints. Here are a few.
Performing reviews of medications
Pharmacists can make regular reviews of the medications patients are taking to ensure they are using the right ones in the right dosages for their condition. Such reviews might show a patient is taking a drug that is no longer necessary, or the patient can take different medications or different dosages, all of which could save the patient money.
Touching base with patients’ physicians
Sometimes physicians will prescribe medications without giving much thought to the cost. If the drug prescribed is causing financial hardship for the patient, the pharmacist can contact the physician to see if any inexpensive alternatives are available, such as generic drugs.
Reviewing insurance coverage
Insurance plans differ in their coverage of drugs – what they cover and what payment they provide for the drug. Patients who do not regularly evaluate their coverage may be paying thousands of dollars more than they have to. Pharmacists can step in here to help patients review their Medicare Part D coverage, for example.
Patient assistance programs
Several pharmaceutical companies offer patient assistance programs to help low-income patients with expensive medications. Patients must apply to enter these programs, but they may eliminate the entire cost of the drugs. Pharmacists can play a role here as well in helping patients navigate their way through these programs.
There are also drug discount programs where drug manufacturers offer assistance with insurance co-pays. These programs also supply drugs at a lower cost.
Some patient assistance websites include medicare.gov; rxassist.org; pparx.org; and needymeds.org.
State assistance programs
There are states that offer drug discount cards to people who meet certain age and income guidelines. And Medicaid is another option for low-income patients in states that have such programs. Again, pharmacists can play a role here by informing patients about the programs and how they work.
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