During the past 10 years or more, the costs of prescription drugs seem to have taken on an enlarging life of their own. Gone are the days of no co-pay. Today even co-pays seem outrageous, yet pharmaceutical drug companies keep raising their prices and we, the patients, are responsible for their bazillion dollar paychecks, whether or not we can afford the drugs we need.
I’ll confess that I have a totally unbalanced sense of awe and loathing for Big Pharma (the moniker given to the whole of large drug companies.) While on the one hand, I appreciate and applaud the “miracle” drugs some have developed over time, I can’t abide their sales practices, and their pretension that they are trying to help patients. Their goal is only to make money. If they happen to help a patient or two, that’s a pleasant surprise. Sad but true.
As a result, when I came upon this article from the AP, I couldn’t wait to share it with you because it can make a true difference for patients, and it gets around their gag rules.
Yes – gag rules. It turns out, according to the article, that drug benefits companies force pharmacies – all of them from big-box type Walgreens, CVS, Rite-Aid or others… to your small, corner pharmacy – to refrain from telling you ways you can save money when you purchase your prescription drugs.
Example: you need to pick up your prescription for, say, Lipitor. Your co-pay means you’ll pay $50 because it’s a brand name drug. Your pharmacist is not allowed to tell you, because of the gag rules, that if you purchase it with cash, it will cost you only $25.
Now – a bit of a disclaimer – not all pharmacies are beholden to gag rules with all benefits companies (called pharmacy benefits managers). But don’t worry about that – you don’t need to track them.
You can take advantage of this information in one simple way:
Always ask your pharmacist how much it would cost you to purchase your prescription with cash. That doesn’t commit you to paying cash – it’s simply an information-gathering question.
Save even more money by shopping around. Call several pharmacies to ask them both how much a prescription will cost with your co-pay, and how much it will cost in cash. Then make your choice. (If you have to get your doctor to send you prescription to a different pharmacy, just call and ask. If he or she hesitates or won’t do it, then it’s time to find a new doctor.)
Pharmacists are FOPs – friends of patients – in all the very best ways. They hate these gag rules and they are happy to help you pay the least for your prescription, so by all means – take advantage of this advice! You’ll be happier and they will be, too.
And if you aren’t sure you’re doing this the right way, then it’s time to reach out to a Professional Patient Advocate to help you.