Monday, April 21, 2008

Health Care and Pharmacy Savings

Prescription medications are costing more and more every year. As a matter of fact, the increase overall has been very noticeable, especially to Seniors and those Americans with no drug co-pay plan. The wholesale prices of brand name medicines most commonly prescribed to elderly Americans increased an average of 7.4 percent last year, an increase about 2.5 times greater than general inflation, says a study released by the advocacy group AARP. The study looked at 220 brand name prescription drugs and found that all but four had wholesale price increases in 2007, the Associated Press reported.

As reported on the Health & Human Services website, many Americans say that they have trouble paying for drugs or that they skip prescriptions or cut pills because of the costs, according to a survey released Tuesday by USA Today, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health. A national telephone survey found that 40% of Americans (and half of those who regularly take at least one medication) reported at least one of three cost-related concerns in their family: 16% have a "serious" problem paying for prescription drugs; 29% have not filled a prescription in the past two years because of the cost; and 23% have cut pills in half or skipped doses in order to make medications last longer.

These types of issues were most common among people who lack drug coverage (52%), have low incomes (54%), and those who take at least four drugs regularly (59%). And, almost 80% of respondents said the cost of prescription drugs is unreasonable, 70% said drug companies are too concerned with profits and not concerned enough about helping people, and 64% said there's not enough government regulation of drug prices. Almost 60% said insurers should only pay for new drugs if they're proven to be not just safe, but also more effective than existing prescription drugs. The report also found that about half of those surveyed take a prescription drug daily, and 20% said they regularly take at least four prescription drugs. Women (56%) are more likely than men (42%) to use a prescription medicine on a regular basis, and are also more likely to reportdifficulties affording their medications as reported by Target News.


And yet the cost of meds keeps going up and up. Although pharmacies typically make a higher mark up on OTC products than prescriptions, the amount of prescription medications dispensed has continued to increase at a dizzying rate as the American population continues to age. The average senior citizen is on several prescribed medications. According to the American Pharmacists Association, the number of different medications a patient takes tends to increase with age; people 75 years of age and older take an average of 7.9 drugs daily per person.


Families USA has reported about the rising cost of prescriptions, especially for seniors. Annual spending per elderly person for prescription drugs grew from $559 in 1992 to $1,205 in 2000, an increase of 116 percent. At the same time, overall per senior health care spending grew by 59%, nearly half as fast as drug spending. As a result, per senior prescription drug spending as a share of total health care spending increased from 7.4% in 1992 to 10% in 2000. By 2010, annual per person spending on drugs for the elderly is projected to reach $2,810 a year, an increase of 133% overspending in 2000. During this period, per senior overall health care spending is projected to increase by 76%. Who actually gets all the money? Using the average estimated retail prescription cost of $50, the manufacturer receives almost 76%, the wholesaler a little over 3%, and the retailer receives about 21% according to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS).


Over the 18-year period from 1992 to 2010, prescription drug spending per elderly person is projected to grow by 403%, more than twice the rate of overall growth in per senior health care spending, which is expected to grow by 180 percent. The portion of senior health spending devoted to prescription drugs will have grown from 7.4% in 1992 to 13.3% in 2010. Additionally, they reported that from 1992 to 2010, the average number of prescriptions per senior will grow by 96%. The overall total number of prescriptions for seniors grew from 648 million in 1992 to over 1 billion in the year 2000—and is projected to grow to almost 1.6 billion in 2010.


An interesting fact published by the Minnesota Board on Aging says that, on average, older women spend more out-of-pocket on prescription drugs than do older men, regardless of whether or not they have prescription drug coverage. However, the percent without drug coverage does not differ between men and women. More than one-third lack drug coverage within both groups. Americans are finding that the cost to purchase prescription medications continues to escalate at an alarming rate. Those on fixed incomes must often choose between food, rent, and utilities versus taking the medicines to stay healthy prescribed by their family physician. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported this month that Americans 65 and older make up 13% of the population yet consume 33% of the nation's medications. With this many prescriptions being filled, the cost to American consumers continues to grow as an ever increasing percentage of overall health care expenses. Seniors under age 75 take an average of six medications, and elderly patients in nursing homes take an average of nine.


As a result, Americans must source ways to reduce the cost of taking medications. Although this is not medical advice, here are a few hints to save money on prescriptions including some of the following ways:

1.) Order Prescription Drugs by phone or online.
2.) Ask your doctor for samples at every visit.
3.) Consider using a pill splitter (not recommended for all drugs).
4.) Sign up for free Pharmacy cards.
5.) Purchase a 90-day vs. 30-day supply.


Shopping for the best medications at the best price should be as simple as shopping for new clothes. Unfortunately, the health care community has made it a challenge for most people. As the patient, though, you need to find ways to help you save money and still be able to get medications that you need at an affordable cost. It's better to keep the money in your pocket than give it to the pharmacy or the drug companies, especially if it means that your net worth is more important to you than someone else's. Although you may have to bite the bullet on some drug expenses, take time to find out the best way to save on cost. It will help you out in the long run and make life more affordable.


Until next time. Let me know what you think.

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