Wellness With Age: Navigating the high cost of prescription drugs

According to a recent article in The New York Times, citizens in the United States pay more for prescription drugs than any other country in the world!

The main reason for this is the U.S. government does not work with pharmaceutical companies to regulate drug prices. This allows those companies the freedom to control the market, eliminating competition and manipulating patents.

In Europe, the second largest prescription drug market after the U.S., the government negotiates with the drug companies for lower prices.

The U.S. and New Zealand are the only two countries in the world who allows drug companies to advertise directly to consumers. In 2022, American drug companies spent nearly $8.1 billion in consumer advertising which is a contributing factor for higher drug prices.

Here is a piece of insider information, because new drugs are always being formulated and traditional ones are being modified pharmacists are required to take continuing education classes to keep up with the changes. In turn doctors rely on pharmacists to learn about the medications they prescribe.

About 20% of Americans — more than 60 million people — are on Medicare, and acquiring prescriptions through Medicare has its own challenges.

Medicare Part D is for prescription drugs and contains four different tiers:

Tier 1 — lowest co-payment: most generic prescription drugs

Tier 2 — medium co-payment: preferred, brand-name prescription drugs

Tier 3 — higher co-payment: non-preferred, brand-name prescription drugs

Specialty tier — highest co-payment: very high cost prescription drugs

Most health care providers are willing to work with patients and Medicare to find the best prices.

Medicare Advantage Plans sometimes called Part C are Medicare health plans offered by Medicare-approved private insurance companies which follow Medicare’s policies and procedures. Most Medicare Advantage Plans include Part D drug coverage. These companies are able to offer good, or at least decent, prices on prescriptions.

Coverage options change from year to year so it is wise for each person to check with their insurance providers at the end of each year.

An important side note is that when a person signs up for Medicare but declines Part D then in the future signs up for it, that person will be penalized for not signing up for it in the beginning.

For residents in Washington state, SHIBA is a free organization to help people of all ages deal with Medicare concerns.

There is good news. More reliable alternatives are now available for purchasing medications at lower costs, and it appears more are on the horizon.

• PharmacyChecker.com is for ordering affordable prescriptions from other countries, especially Canada.

• CostPlusDrugs.com was started by Shark Tank celebrity Mark Cuban and offers lower prices, especially for the higher priced drugs.

• HealthWarehouse.com is another reputable online pharmacy which also offers over-the-counter medicines and supplies.

• GoodRx.com

• Pharmacy.amazon.com

• BlinkHealth.com

Here are three suggestions for finding the best prices possible:

1) Ask healthcare providers if a generic brand would work then ask the insurance company what they will cover.

2) Talk with pharmacists regarding local coupons, manufacturer coupons or patient assistant programs from the drug companies.

3) Discuss with healthcare providers and insurance companies the option of purchasing a 90-day supply, as buying in bulk is more affordable. Also discuss with doctors the option of cutting pills (dosages) in half, if possible to save money.

Another idea few patients are aware of is to ask healthcare providers if there are supplements which would work instead of prescription drugs. Examples are vitamin B-1 is now used for sleep apnea and frankincense has been used for certain cancers.

Please email us with your thoughts and suggestions regarding prescription drug coverage. I personally answer every email. See WellnessWithAge.com.

I want to publicly thank our readers who wrote asking me to write on this topic. If you have a topic you want to read about feel free to email us.

Crystal Linn is a multi-published author and an award-winning poet. When not writing, or teaching workshops, she enjoys reading a good mystery, hiking, and sailing with friends and family. See crystallinn.com.