Serious Savings for Serious Illnesses

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When you or a loved one are sick, you're probably not thinking about saving money. But even if it's a serious condition, you can save without sacrificing care.

Sometimes, it’s unseemly to save money. For instance, if a loved one has a serious or chronic illness, the last thing you want to be overheard asking the doctor is, “How can I cut down on my expenses here?”

But what if you can save money without jeopardizing the medical care? A new study from a team of researchers (including some from  Harvard) revealed that generic drugs can save a lot of cash when it comes to preventing and treating serious ailments.

It’s been proven for a long time now that generic drugs work – especially over-the-counter medications for headaches and allergies. But it’s also been controversial. While Money Talks News has told you about Saving Money on Drugs, one study earlier this year (by the same researchers mentioned above and sponsored by CVS/Caremark) showed that nearly a quarter of doctors are suspicious of generic drugs. Why? Maybe, the researchers suggested, because “75 percent said they receive their information from the pharmaceutical representatives.” Those reps are obviously going to promote their higher-profit brand-name drugs over cheaper generics.

But this latest study is quite clear: “With more than 70 percent of health care costs in the U.S. spent treating patients who have one or more chronic disease, the researchers said generic medications are changing the economics of treating chronically ill patients.”

Here’s one example…

Using brand-name drugs to lower the LDL (or bad) cholesterol costs $83,327 “per quality adjusted life year,” which the study defines as “a financial measure that evaluates the impact of improving the quality of life for patients with chronic diseases.” Using the generic equivalent? $17,084, “or 20 percent of the original estimate.”

“No matter who holds the financial risk – the patient, employer, or government health plan – using generic medications has to be a key part of managing treatment for chronically ill patients,” says Dr. Troyen A. Brennan, one of the study’s authors.

So what can you do?

  1. If you or a loved one is suffering from a serious or chronic condition, don’t ask your doctor, “Can I get this in a generic?” Instead, be direct: “Is there a generic medication that treats this condition?” If his answer is yes, tell him you want that particular drug. (Remember, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the effectiveness and safety of generic drugs, just as it does for name-brand drugs.)
  2. If your doctor isn’t budging, get a second opinion – perhaps from a younger doctor. The research team found in its earlier study that, “Physicians 55 or older were 3.3 times more likely to have negative perceptions about generics than those between 25 and 34.”
  3. If you have a serious or chronic condition, go online and find a support group. There are groups for every condition, where sufferers offer support and share treatment tips – which often include how to save money and deal with doctors.

Bottom line: When you or a loved one is ailing, the last thing on your mind might be saving money. But there are proven ways to not only stretch your health care dollars but also improve the quality of care. Here are some other helpful tips…

Stacy Johnson

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