Word is out that the FDA has placed severe restrictions on the use of the diabetes drug Avandia. Thousands of people are now forced to decide what to take in its place.
Avandia isn’t/wasn’t cheap. The knee-jerk reaction of many physicians will likely be a switch to one of several other pricy brand name medications.
Now would be a good time to evaluate whether less-expensive options should be entertained. This might especially be true for people who were prescribed Avandia from the start, or without first trying more than one medication of lesser expense.
People are smart to consider patient assistance programs (PAPs) for help with the cost of prescriptions and medical care. Among the most common resources used are those provided by pharmaceutical companies and the assistance programs run by individual states (SPAPs).
Unfortunately, many people are unaware of regional and national programs designed to provide assistance to people with certain medical conditions.
At least two organizations attempt to organize these resources:
A provocative article in yesterday’s New York Times, Put Your Hospital Bill Under a Microscope, details horror stories of the financial aftermath of hospitalization. Below is the comment that I submitted.
What a messy situation.
Hospitals and doctors commonly get shortchanged by insurers and Medicare. It is not uncommon to get paid less than what it costs to deliver a service. Charges are therefore inflated to make up for the losses wherever possible–receipt of the full amount is not expected. To avoid getting into legal trouble, charges must be kept fairly consistent, which unintentionally results in bloated bills for individuals with less than 100% medical coverage.
Of course, health care is different than most any other consumer “purchase.” It can be highly complex, incredibly expensive, and the language almost foreign. Minute details of insurance coverage are impossible to know. Care is mostly rendered based on what the medical situation appears to require, rather than the patient actively picking and choosing. And, of course, penny-pinching and delay of care can sometimes result in real harm.
A single payer system might simplify the system, but the issues would largely remain the same.
Just as there is nobody assigned to each of us for scrutiny of our bills from the plumber, mechanic or airline, there will unlikely ever be a universal health care cost advocate. Who is going to spend money so that you can save yours?
Unfortunately, the best we can do is to ask questions, stay as informed as possible and remain politely vigilant.
Stephen Meyers, MD
I recently had an informative online exchange with pharmacist Eric Geyer, BSPS, PharmD, RPh, about some of the pros and cons of shopping around for pharmacies.
While it is hard to argue against finding the best price for each medication, keep in mind the potential associated costs . . .
Chances are that you have paid money in the past to measure your cholesterol, and will continue to do so periodically in the future. So, how often do you need to check it?
“As often as my doctor recommends.”
Sure, that’s the easy answer, and the decision should indeed be made in consultation with your physician (or other care provider). However, giving it a few moments’ thought might save you some money.