Tags: soaring | drug | prices | strategies | cut | costs

10 Ways to Save on Soaring Drug Prices Hitting 1 in 3 Americans

10 Ways to Save on Soaring Drug Prices Hitting 1 in 3 Americans
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By    |   Tuesday, 21 June 2016 02:28 PM

Nearly one-third of Americans are facing stiff increases in drug costs this year — on top of rising insurance premiums, deductibles, and overall healthcare expenditures, according to a new poll by Consumer Reports.

The survey found one in three consumers experienced at least one major drug price hike in the past 12 months — shelling out $2 billion more for medication. To save money, half of those facing higher drug costs stopped taking their meds or cut back on other household items, such as food, according to the nationally representative poll.

“Americans are being bled dry by corporate profiteering that is completely legal. And their pocketbook pain is reverberating through virtually every facet of their lives from retirement plans to family time to the essentials of daily living, such as buying groceries,” says Lisa Gill, a deputy editor with CR.

The new CR poll involved 2,139 American adults who take prescription drugs. Among the respondents who experienced a drug price hike in the past month, the poll found:
  • Nearly half — 47 percent —stopped taking a medication to save money.
  • 28 percent put off a doctor visit, 23 percent declined a medical test or procedure.
  • 38 percent spent less on entertainment; 31 percent cut grocery budgets.
  • 25 percent used their credit card more often; 19 postponed paying other bills.
  • 7-10 percent put off retirement to keep insurance coverage or took a second job.
“Consumers told us they had to make sometimes scary tradeoffs between their medications and necessities like groceries or other medical care,” Gill said.

But she added that consumers can — and should — take steps to hold down costs: “Consumers aren’t used to questioning prices for pharmaceutical drugs — nor are they used to shopping around and haggling — but they could save themselves a lot of money if they do.”

Among the cost-saving strategies advocates recommend:

Shop around. Retail prices vary by store and chain pharmacies tend to have the highest costs, so it pays to compare prices. Some retail outlets — including Target and Sam’s Club — offer hundreds of low- and even no-cost drugs, including the common diabetes medication Metformin, antibiotics, and others.

Ask for a discount. Ask your pharmacist if the price you’re quoted is the best price the store can give you. Often, a coupon or other promotion will qualify you for a discount.

Try a loyalty program. CVS, Walgreens, Rite-Aid and other pharmacies have customer loyalty programs that offer discounts that can save you hundreds of dollars a year or earn you credits for other health services (i.e. flu shots or shingles vaccines).

Visit an independent pharmacy. Mom and pop stores often offer real bargains as do supermarket drug stores, which can match or beat competitor’s prices.

Buy online. Go with an online pharmacy, such as HealthWarehouse.com. Just be sure it operates within the U.S. and that it’s a Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site (VIPPS). You can also purchase scripts in three-month supplies to save.

Consider generic drugs. Switch from a brand-name drug to a generic version, which can cost up to 90 percent less and are often — but not always — as safe and effective.
Ask your doctor about free samples. The average physician receives more than $21,000 per year in samples from drug companies. All you have to do is ask for them.
 
Ask about pill splitting. Some tablets can be cut with a pill splitter, effectively cutting your drug costs half. For instance, if you pay a $15 co-pay for a one-month supply of the statin Zocor (40 milligrams), ask your doctor to write a script for 80-milligram Zocor pills and cut them in half. That will save you $90 per year.

Check out drug assistance programs. The nonprofit RXAssist program an online clearinghouse of programs that provide free or low-cost drugs to low-income folks.

Choose a solid drug plan. Compare plans during your open-enrollment period for the best options for coverage of drugs and services, premiums, out-of-pocket costs, and doctor and hospital networks.

In addition to detailing the findings of its national poll, the new CR report — published in the August issue and available free online —identified five key reasons for the rise in drug prices:
  1. No drug price controls. No government body can restrict the price a drug company can set for a drug. “Major pharmaceutical firms raked in an additional $25.6 billion in 2015 simply by raising prices on their brand name drugs,” the report said. “The firm estimates that figure to grow to $155 billion over the next five years.”
  2. Insurers are charging more. More Americans are experiencing higher deductibles, increasing monthly premiums, and bigger co-pays for drugs.
  3. Old drugs are reformulated as new. Increasingly, companies are patenting new combinations of multiple old drugs into single formulations or developing extended-release versions of long-used meds that lead to greater profits.
  4. Generic drug shortages rising. Reductions in generics, due to slow-downs in manufacturing and safety issues in overseas producers, have led to price hike for such medications. Overall, prices of generics increased by about 9 percent since November 2013.
  5. Specialty drugs increasing. Costly new drugs like the hepatitis C medications Solvadi ($84,000) and Harvoni (up to $95,000) are driving up overall costs for the healthcare system. A report by the Congressional Research Service shows very expensive drugs account for less than 1 percent of prescriptions, but represent about one-third of total drug spending in the U.S. Also, more than half of the 56 medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2015 were specialty drugs, the CR report noted.

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As drug and insurance company giants battle over profits, a new Consumer Reports poll finds consumers caught in the price wars — with one in three Americans facing steep increases in medication costs. Here's why, and what you can do to keep your drug costs from bankrupting you.
soaring, drug, prices, strategies, cut, costs
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2016-28-21
Tuesday, 21 June 2016 02:28 PM
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