Prescription for Trouble?

Photo (cc) by renaissancechambara

When their doctor writes them a prescription, more than two-thirds of Americans feel a bit queasy. Or so implies a new Consumer Reports survey that shows 69 percent of those currently taking prescription medications think their doctor is in cahoots with big drug companies.

The survey of 1,150 adults makes some bold claims…

Sixty-nine percent, of consumers surveyed said they think drugmakers have too much influence on doctors’ decisions about which drug to prescribe. Half of those polled said they feel doctors are too eager to prescribe a drug rather than consider alternate methods of managing a condition. … A whopping 81 percent said they are concerned about the rewards drugmakers give to doctors who write a lot of prescriptions for a company’s drugs.

Are they right? Well, despite most businesses suffering in this recession, “overall U.S. pharmaceutical sales continue to grow,” said this industry report last month. Look at these total sales numbers for the top 500 prescription drugs…

  • 2007: $354 billion
  • 2008: $397 billion
  • 2009: $423 billion

Saving without suffering

So how can you take back some of those dollars? Consumer Reports recommends the obvious: Ask about generic drugs. But as we wrote about a few months ago, there’s a right way and a wrong way of doing that…

Word your request to save money carefully. Instead of asking, “Can I get this in a generic?” ask, “Is there a generic medication that treats this condition?” Although there might not be a generic equivalent for the original drug, there may be a less costly alternative that also treats the condition.

Also, realize that those free drug samples aren’t really free in the long run. Sure, your doctor will dip into his drawer and hand you a bunch now, but those samples are usually for the newest and most expensive brand-name drugs – and once the freebies are gone, you’ll be forced to pay full price.

A University of Chicago Medical Center report actually tallied up the cost: Patients spent $166 out of pocket for the six months prior to getting free samples – but $244 during the six months in which they received free samples. And after the samples ran out, they still paid more: $212 over the next six months.

Whatever you do, don’t ignore the doctor’s orders. Consumer Reports says 12 percent of those surveyed had tried to save money by taking an expired medication, while 4 percent had shared a prescription with someone else. Even worse, 16 percent simply didn’t get their prescriptions filled.

New solutions

Thankfully, both the government and private business realize there’s a problem. In ways big and small, they’re taking action…

BenefitsCheckUp is a free online screening service from the National Council on Aging (NCOA). It helps low-income seniors with various benefits programs, including prescription drugs.

Walgreens recently announced Pharmacy Chat, which allows its customers to “chat” online with a pharmacist about prescription and over-the-counter drugs – including discussions about price. That’s a much more relaxed environment than standing at a counter, asking questions while other customers are lined up behind you.

Health insurance company Humana has added a third state to fall under its CarePrescribe program. Kentucky this month joins Florida and Texas in allowing doctors to use what it calls “e-prescribing technology.” Doctors get a handheld device that links to a computer and makes it easier to, among other things, find generic equivalents and even digitally send the prescription to a mail-order pharmacy. “There is a tremendous opportunity to reduce medication errors, improve medication adherence, and impact overall costs,” says William Fleming, vice president of Humana Pharmacy Solutions.

The federal government’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is embarking on what one expert calls “potentially industry-changing” – hiring someone to compile a “Survey of Retail Prices, Payment and Utilization Rates, and Performance Rankings.” What’s that mean? According to drug industry consultant Adam J. Fein

This survey will gather data on both retail pharmacy prices as well as the prices paid by pharmacies to wholesalers or manufacturers. Plus, CMS intends to post these data on its website. Translation: The whole wide world will have transparency to drug prices and costs.

And that could lead to easier comparison shopping and lower prices.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
7 Unusual Ways to Declutter Your Home
7 Unusual Ways to Declutter Your Home

Tired of possessions weighing you down? Here are seven ways to declutter painlessly and effectively.

11 Home Upgrades With the Best Payback in 2020
11 Home Upgrades With the Best Payback in 2020

The home remodeling projects that deliver the best bang for the buck tend to have one thing in common.

What Is Umbrella Insurance, and Do I Need It?
What Is Umbrella Insurance, and Do I Need It?

Umbrella insurance picks up where car and homeowners insurance leaves off. Do you need it? Here’s how to know.

9 Houseplants That Remove Toxins From Your Indoor Air
9 Houseplants That Remove Toxins From Your Indoor Air

These plants may also do everything from reduce the amount of dust in your home to improve your productivity.

19 Purchases That Buyers Almost Always Regret
19 Purchases That Buyers Almost Always Regret

Think twice before buying these things.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

The Next 5 Groups Who Will Get the COVID-19 Vaccine
The Next 5 Groups Who Will Get the COVID-19 Vaccine

The CDC has unveiled a schedule that likely will determine who gets the next doses.

Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?
Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?

Can an adult daughter tap into her late mother’s benefit?

11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco
11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco

Not all generics are worthwhile, but these are among the best from Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand.

8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone
8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone

It’s never too early to start learning how to live well while living on less.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia
This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia

Nearly half of U.S. residents may face this threat.

Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds
Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds

Resolve to be clutter-free in 2021 with these secondhand purchases.

This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers
This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers

For the second straight year, a growing number of Americans believe they’ve fallen prey to this scam.

11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It
11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It

Seriously? Fibbing about the weather is a crime? This and other little-known legal traps await the unwary.

These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy
These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy

These vehicles boast reliability, safety and long-lasting value.

6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have
6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have

Few retirees have all of these documents that are crucial to their golden years — especially during a pandemic.

13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free
13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free

There are many ways to get cheap or free services and goods after reaching a certain age.

Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore
Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore

Starting this month, your ISP no longer can bill you for this fee.

15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021
15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021

Follow these tips to save, so you’ll have money for things that really matter.

9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry
9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry

Keep more of future paychecks by eliminating these budget-busting unnecessary expenses.

The 4 Best Things to Buy in January — and 4 to Avoid
The 4 Best Things to Buy in January — and 4 to Avoid

As a new year dawns, deals abound for some types of products. In other cases, it pays to wait.

11 Huge Retirement Costs That Are Often Overlooked
11 Huge Retirement Costs That Are Often Overlooked

Does your retirement budget account for all of these costs?

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.