Thursday, November 1, 2012

Tips on Lowering Drug Costs

Excerpts from the September 2012, Senior Spirit newsletter.

Recently, a caretaker posed a question to the Internet information site, about.com, that highlighted the serious issue of seniors’ inability to afford prescription drugs. The question asked, “How can I find low-cost drug programs for my grandfather?”

“I have recently started caring for my elderly grandfather who lives on a very limited income. He has been prescribed Zocor for cholesterol problems, but this medication is so expensive it is becoming a choice for a place to live or his medication.”

Studies have shown that many older patients with chronic health problems are cutting back on their medications because they cost too much, not only impairing their daily functioning, but also endangering their lives. In 2009, the nonpartisan Senior Citizens League conducted a study in which 42 percent of the participants said they had either postponed filling their prescription medications or were taking a smaller dosage than prescribed by their physicians, due to the economic recession. Fortunately, low-cost prescription drug options are available for seniors through pharmacies, drug manufacturers and/or government-assistance programs.

Pharmacies

A survey by agingcare.com found that prescription drug prices can vary by as much as 35 percent from one store to another. The survey compared Walgreens, Costco and Target. In one case, 50 mg of Levoxyl cost $14 at Target, $35 at Costco and $42 at Walgreens, but for other drugs, the stores offering the lowest costs were reversed. This means that the drug user needs to contact different stores to find the cheapest prices.

A survey by agingcare.com found that prescription drug prices can vary by as much as 35 percent from one store to another. The survey compared Walgreens, Costco and Target. In one case, 50 mg of Levoxyl cost $14 at Target, $35 at Costco and $42 at Walgreens, but for other drugs, the stores offering the lowest costs were reversed. This means that the drug user needs to contact different stores to find the cheapest prices.

The downside of purchasing prescriptions based solely on cost is not being able to use one trusted pharmacy. One woman commented, on agingcare.com, “My husband has made a habit of going to the local pharmacy because the pharmacist is his ‘buddy.’ No doubt this has cost us tremendously. But I do not think we are alone in this situation. Local pharmacists can make it easy to do business—they provide advice, counsel and a more personal face on a difficult medical situation.” Also, using the same pharmacy means that the pharmacist is aware of other drugs being taken and can warn the customer in case one interferes with another or if combining certain drugs may cause harmful effects. (See The Risks of Taking Too Many Drugs in this issue of Senior Spirit.)

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