Prescription medication is vital to the practice of medicine. How often have you gone to the doctor for a problem and not walked out with a prescription? I can say with confidence, probably not too often.
It the last hundred years, antibiotics have saved millions of lives. In the two year period of 1918 and 1919, scientists estimate the influenza virus killed between 20 and 40 million people worldwide. In the United States, the total deaths amounted to 675,000; that is more deaths than the total of all US war battle deaths. So more US citizens were killed by the flu outbreak of 1918/1919, than were killed all the wars we have ever fought. Thankfully, scientists have developed a vaccine.
Prior to 1955, thousands of children were killed or crippled by the polio virus. The invention of a vaccine by Dr. Jonas Salk has all but eradicated this terrible disease worldwide.
Insulin has extended the life and improved the health of millions of diabetics. It wasn’t until 1921 that insulin was “discovered.” In the 1940s, scientists linked diabetes with its long term complications such as blindness and kidney failure. And blood glucose monitors, which tell you exactly how much insulin to inject, were developed just 35 years ago. Now, scientists are transplanting insulin-producing pancreatic beta-cells to Type I diabetics.
High blood pressure and high cholesterol seriously shortened one’s life just a generation ago. With new technology comes new ways to deal with these conditions. The drug class statins, which include today’s most prescribed medication, Lipitor, was only just developed in 1987. It is pretty obvious that prescription medications are important. Anything this important and essential to the life and welfare of the human race is going to be expensive.
Americans spent more than $170 billion for their prescription medication in 2004. The average out-of-pocket cost per prescription is now $54.58 and the average person over the age of 55 takes 2.6 different medications per day. That comes to an average out-of-pocket expense of about $140 per month or $1680 per year. Those over the age of 65 spend more on prescription costs ($2,300 a year average) than on physician care, vision services, and medical supplies combined. In fact, the total health care spending in the United States in 2004 was $1.8 trillion. That is 4.3 times the amount spent on national defense.
According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, spending of prescription drugs increased at an average rate of 14.5% a year from 1997 to 2002. The statistics prove that the average prescription medication costs have quadrupled since 1991. The cost continues to increase at a rate of about 18% per year. This 18% increase translates to an additional $22.6 billion for the drug manufactures between 2000 and 2001.
Health insurance costs are also soaring. The number of Americans without health insurance is now approaching 50 million. The co-pays for prescription drugs have risen 62% in the last three years. Since the year 2000, insurance premiums have gone up 49% and deductibles are rising at a rate of 22% a year. People in this country are not seeking medical attention because of the cost. They wait until it is too late and they are taken away in either an ambulance or hearse.
The Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit, private foundation, estimates that those over 55 years of age, in 2006, will pay an average of $3,160 on medication, that’s $263 per month.
When are we going to do something about this? The government thinks it came up with an answer in it’s Medicare Part D. Already the program is riddled with delays, problems, and confusion. The only way we, as consumers, are going to lower our costs, is take matters into our own hands.
The public needs to be educated in how the drug companies price their medication, why the costs are so high, and how you can reduce your costs.
Take the initiative, learn all about your medication. Ask your doctor why he or she prescribed that particular drug. If there something else that works the same way but costs less? Can I double the dose and cut the tablet in half? Are there and samples you have here in the office?
These are just three of the many questions you can ask your doctor. Depending on the answer, you can begin to formulate your plan for savings.