The latest edition of NPR’s ongoing series, The View From Black America, focuses on Americans who live within fear of financial disaster due to high drug costs. In fact, one in four African-Americans struggle to afford medication, according to a national poll conducted by NPR, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health.
Mike Jackson is one of the millions of Americans whose response to high drug prices was to scale back his medication (in his case, insulin). Mr. Jackson stated, “Instead of taking 60 units twice a day, I was taking 30 units twice a day….The idea behind that was if I watched what I would eat and then stay with the 30 units — I would keep my blood sugar down enough that hopefully it would not be much of a problem.” His medication cost almost $500 per month.
Mr. Jackson ended up with numbness in his foot and toes, and nerve damage in his eyes, sure signs that his diabetes had gone out of control. A trip to the ophthalmologist only added to his medical bills.
Ashley Liggins had to choose whether to purchase food, gas, or medication to control her blood pressure. When the choice comes between medicine and other essentials, like food for your family, sometimes expensive medicine may be the first to go. And this this was the decision made by Ms. Liggins, leading her to reduce doses and borrow pills from her mother.
We will continue to document cases of Americans getting sicker due to high drug prices. To take action on bringing down drug prices consider joining RxRights.org.
To listen to the NPR segment, click here.
Tagged with: diabetes, NPR, RxRights
The number of Americans not taking medication due to high drug prices – a public health crisis – has increased dramatically over the past decade. Last year, drug prices deterred 50 million Americans ages 19-64 from filling a prescription, a 28% increase since 2003 and 4% increase since 2010, according to the Commonwealth Fund’s 2012 Biennial Health Insurance Survey. The survey measures gaps in medical care due to cost, such as forgone doctors’ visits, medical tests, specialist care, and prescription medications. The prescription-use data for 2012 was derived from answers to the following question: In the last 12 months, was there any time when you did not fill a prescription for medicine because of the cost? This fifty million – a staggering figure – does not even include seniors or children who also did not fill a prescription due to cost.
Not surprisingly, the problems for the uninsured are much greater, especially for those with chronic conditions. Sixty percent of uninsured Americans with a chronic condition skipped taking medication in 2012 due to cost, compared to 14% of insured Americans. Overall, the figure was 28%; that’s 18 million out of sixty-six million adults with hypertension or high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, emphysema, lung disease, or heart disease who reported skipping medication.
As far as seniors skipping meds goes, a recent Walgreens survey may have some answers. It found that 37% of Medicare enrollees are concerned about their drug costs and 20% delay filling prescriptions or skip doses to manage costs. That’s almost an additional eight million (using U.S. Census data for 2011) Americans not adhering to prescriptions due to high drug prices. Walgreens attributes such dismal numbers to the fact that people are unaware of cost-saving alternatives, such as the fact that co-pays vary among pharmacies and limited knowledge of how Part D prescription plans work.
Other reasons seniors skip medication are because their Part D plans do not cover brand name medications prescribed by their doctors and the “donut hole,” a coverage gap in Medicare drug plans that has fortunately begun to close due to Obamacare .
We’re happy to note that the Commonwealth Fund’s report shows that more insured Americans under Obamacare in the years to come could alleviate medical cost problems for millions of Americans. We’ll explore in a future blog post new data on how Americans are addressing the problem of high drug prices.
Tagged with: Commonwealth Fund, Obamacare, walgreens
New research by Express Scripts shows that our nation is wasting $418 billion dollars annually on excess medication-related expenses. To our dismay, our home state of New York was near the top of the list of wasters, spending an extra $1,411 per resident due to our failure to purchase the lowest priced medicine, use the most cost effective pharmacy, and – worst of all – properly take medication.
Not surprisingly, one of the main problems identified by Express Scripts was failure to use a generic substitute for brand name medicine. However, not all brand name medicines have generic counterparts! Many New Yorkers (and people from other states, too) turn to online pharmacies to save. In fact, by ordering many brand medications from verified international online pharmacies, New Yorkers and all Americans could save well over $1,411 annually.
As examples, check out the savings on Advair Diskus, Abilify, and Crestor below. For prices on other brand name medications from verified online pharmacies, compare drug prices on PharmacyChecker.com.
Advair Diskus is one of the most popular maintenance medications for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Savings on a three-month supply by ordering internationally online instead of a local pharmacy in New York City are $1,184. Over the course of a year, that’s $4,736!
Three-Month Supply of Advair Diskus (250-50mcg) Cost
Local pharmacy in New York City, International Online Pharmacy price as found on PharmacyChecker.com. Prices collected 10/24/2012
Abilify, used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar I disorder, major depressive disorder, and other conditions, costs just over $2,200 for a 90-day supply. When ordered from a verified international online pharmacy, the price drops to $330. That’s $1,870 for three months of medicine. Over the year that’s $7,480. That’s the amount of medication-related wasted spending for over 5 New Yorkers.
Three-Month Supply of Abilify (10 mg) Cost
Local pharmacy in New York City, International Online Pharmacy price as found on PharmacyChecker.com. Prices collected 10/24/2012
Spending on Crestor, a medication used to treat conditions including hyperlipidemia, mixed dyslipidemia, and hypertriglyceridemia, has increased by over 250% from 2007 to 2011, from $1.7 billion to $4.4 billion. So how big are the savings? For a three-month supply, you can save $580. Over the year, that’s $2,320.
Three-Month Supply of Crestor (10 mg) Cost
Local pharmacy in New York City, International Online Pharmacy price as found on PharmacyChecker.com. Prices collected 11/26/2012. International Online Pharmacy prices calculated from 84 pills.
High prescription drug costs make Americans sicker and contribute to our national budget woes, according to a report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released at the end of last year. The report serves as a reminder to always take your prescribed medicines. We view this study as further evidence that access to affordable medication from reputable international online pharmacies improves the health of Americans and decreases healthcare spending.
To put it simply, as consumers’ out-of-pocket drug costs rise, they are less likely to take their medicine as prescribed, which leads to more medical services and increased healthcare spending. The CBO report tells us that the converse follows: when out-of-pocket prescription costs fall there is less need for medical services, and as a result less healthcare spending.
The CBO’s report is based on an analysis of relatively new studies that have tracked out-of-pocket prescription drug costs and overall healthcare spending in employer and government-based health insurance programs. The result is that CBO has now internalized out-of-pocket prescription drug costs in its methodology for calculating the effects of legislation affecting drug costs. This means if a new bill aims to bring down prescription drug prices in the United States or through drug importation, CBO would calculate how many more prescriptions would be filled and estimate the resulting decrease in healthcare spending.
It is critical that our elected leaders and government officials take this into account when considering new laws or taking actions that affect access to affordable medication .Just yesterday, Minnesota U.S. Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar re-introduced a bill, The Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act, to enable the federal government to negotiate lower Medicare drug prices with drug manufacturers. Such legislation would most certainly lower drug costs, improve health, and decrease the taxpayer burden on healthcare spending
Tagged with: CBO, healthcare spending, Medicare, Medicare Drug Plans, Medication non-adherence, Prescription Drug Prices
The Deadly Problem of High Drug Costs and How Personal Drug Importation Helps
High prescription drug prices continue to be a public health crisis in America and the problem appears to have worsened throughout 2012. The added healthcare costs to the economy caused by Americans not taking their medication have increased from $290 billion to $313 billion. According to a study by the New England Healthcare Institute, over one million Americans die each year because they do not correctly take needed medications or do not take them at all. Though not all of those deaths are due to cost, it’s fair to estimate that hundreds of thousands of Americans are dying each year because drug costs are the number one reason for people not taking prescribed medications. It follows that all avenues of access to safe and affordable medication save lives, including access to safe online pharmacies with the lowest drug prices, international or domestic, which are a real lifeline for American consumers. Therefore, the federal statute banning personal drug importation under most circumstances doesn’t change the fact that current access to safe personal drug importation is good for the public health.
Savings Online Internationally Have Increased; U.S. Has Best Deals on Generics
Online pharmacy savings increased in 2012 due to lower international pharmacy prices coupled with extreme drug price increases – 13 % — in the United States. The potential savings on popular brand name drugs increased to 85% in November 2012 from 80% in March 2011, according to PharmacyChecker.com research. Online pharmacy savings are greatest on brand name medications, which when purchased internationally often help Americans save thousands of dollars each year. Some American lives are saved by online access to international pharmacies. In stark contrast to pricing on brand name drugs, U.S. generic drug prices remained globally competitive and offered Americans their best bet on many popular medications available generically at U.S. pharmacies, such as Walmart’s $4 discount programs, and usage of prescription drug discount cards. And because many popular drugs, such as Lipitor and Plavix, are now sold generically in the U.S., we can expect a shift from international to domestic pharmacies in 2013.
Rogue Online Pharmacies vs. High Drug Prices: Which is More Dangerous?
Rogue online pharmacies are a serious public health threat and need to be put out of business, but the draconian public health consequences of Americans going without needed medication due to cost is a much bigger problem. While one death is too many, very few Americans have died from rogue online pharmacies, domestic or foreign. In dire contrast, as mentioned above, it’s estimated that over one million Americans die each year from not taking needed medication with U.S. drug costs identified as the main culprit behind Americans going without prescribed medication. It’s worth noting that the research showing this sobering data was funded in part by pharmaceutical companies, including PhRMA and Pfizer (Read the research by the New England Health Institute. Follow this hyperlink to the full report; the sponsors are made clear).
The Media Storm of Misinformation on Online Pharmacies
It’s not a freakish editorial accident that the media appears far more interested in reporting about the evils of online pharmacies, especially foreign ones, and their dangers, than the national disgrace of high drug prices causing bankruptcy, sickness, hospitalization and death. The amazing profits of the global pharmaceutical industry are overwhelmingly dependent on charging U.S. consumers the world’s highest prescription drug prices. Preventing Americans from access to lower international drug prices is obviously one of their major goals. The power of the pharmaceutical and the U.S. pharmacy industries, exercised through billions of dollars spent on advertising, lobbying, and media relations, has led to the mainstream media propagating a false narrative about an online marketplace in which it’s not safe to buy lower priced medication from non-U.S. online pharmacies under any circumstances. We’ve written about most of the groups responsible for perpetuating the false narrative:
Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies
Center For Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP)
National Association of Board of Pharmacy
Partnership For Safe Medicines
With the exception of CSIP, each of the groups above receives funding or revenue from the pharmaceutical industry, U.S. pharmacy industry, and/or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They all conflate the evils of dangerous rogue online pharmacies with the safe practice of personal drug importation from safe online pharmacies, mostly based in Canada. While FDA’s policies continue to allow Americans to personally import prescription medication, the FDA now engages fully in promoting the industry-sponsored media script. CSIP is largely the brain child of the White House Office of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, an office dedicated to protecting intellectual property rights and strenuously lobbied and influenced by the pharmaceutical industry.
The Truth About Online Pharmacies
There are many international online pharmacies, mostly based in Canada, that have operated safely and ethically for over a decade. Independent research demonstrates that there are clearly safe online pharmacies, international and domestic, including those approved by PharmacyChecker.com. Safe international online pharmacies meet the same or similar standards as U.S. mail-order pharmacies. Their main difference is that they sell medication at a much lower price than U.S. pharmacies. They are not rogue online pharmacies. It’s that simple.
The dangers of rogue online pharmacies are very serious. Such rogues purport to be real and safe pharmacies when often they are not selling from licensed sources, requiring prescriptions or following other basic pharmacy safety protocols. Some online pharmacies are even operated by organized crime groups. And some sell deadly products.
Online Pharmacies in 2013
In 2012, law enforcement successfully shutdown more dangerous rogue sites. We should all applaud and encourage further efforts to crackdown on rogue online pharmacies. But we should also expose misinformation being spread by the pharmaceutical industry about safe international online pharmacies. Their misinformation directly leads to Americans going without medication because people are scared away from online pharmacies that sell the medications they need at a price they can afford.
To help protect the ability of Americans to safely import affordable prescription medication, we encourage you to become part of the RxRights.org movement. Join RxRights.org and contact your elected officials now to let them know Americans need access to safe medication that is affordable, including through personal drug importation.
American consumers should be able and encouraged to purchase safe medication at the lowest possible prices, whether domestically or internationally. Federal and state laws that decrease access to safe and affordable medication are neither ethical nor conducive to protecting the public health. Comparing drug prices among licensed and safe pharmacies and making this information available online for consumers helps maximize access while greatly minimizing risks: PharmacyChecker.com will proudly as ever continue to do so in 2013.
Happy Holidays and New Year!
A major U.S. pharmacy has finally said that high drug prices are the biggest barrier to medication adherence. A recent study from CVS Caremark revealed that 62% of pharmacists said high drug prices are the most common cause of prescription nonadherence (not taking your meds) among their patients. Ninety-one percent of pharmacists said that cost efficient alternatives to expensive therapies would improve adherence.
While previous studies from the pharmaceutical and pharmacy industries have mentioned that that cost is a barrier to medication, this is the first industry study to our knowledge that says cost is the primary barrier. Oddly enough, the pharmacy industry, including CVS and Caremark, is one of the industries profiting from high drug prices.
High drug prices are bad for public health. Medication adherence is linked to 125,000 deaths and 290 billion dollars in excess health spending per year (hospitalizations and emergency room spending, among others). High drug prices cause a large part of this – 48 million Americans did not fill a prescription due to cost in 2010.
Americans – both as patients and taxpayers – deserve access to low cost medication. As patients, our health is on the line. As taxpayers we are funding hospital stays and emergency room visits. Lower drug prices are needed in America – and the benefits go beyond simply having extra cash in your pocket.
And as far as savings go, remember to ask your pharmacist how to save. Generic medications, discount cards, and coupons offer some savings. For brand name medications without generic alternatives, you’ll find the best savings at an online pharmacy. Just make sure it’s safe and credentialed, like those listed on PharmacyChecker.com. Whatever you do, don’t forgo needed prescription medication.
Tagged with: CVS Caremark, Drug Prices, Medication non-adherence, Online Pharmacy