Prescription drug costs in this country are soaring–so much so, that many Americans are just not filling their prescriptions. With more and more folks losing their jobs because of the downturn in the economy, more people will be without health insurance as well. Because prescription drug coverage is tied to employment for most working Americans, this presents a huge problem. It might be possible to forgo visits to your healthcare provider for a few months while you look for a new job, but it may not be possible nor advisable to stop taking your prescription medications during that time.
So, what is one to do?
There are some options available to ease the burden of the costs of prescription drugs during this time. One recent invention has been very low-cost generic drugs provided by pharmacies. In many areas, hundreds of different generic drugs are available at only $4 for a one-month supply, or $9-10 for a three-month supply. For example, Walmart, Target, CVS, and Giant Eagle all offer these programs; check the websites for locations. These medications include many common medications to treat cardiac, diabetic, and allergic conditions. Additionally, some pharmacies have taken to providing a full course of commonly prescribed generic antibiotics for free. All one has to do is show up with a prescription for the antibiotic, and the drug is free from the pharmacy. There are generally no income qualifications for these types of programs.
For more long-term needs, and for folks whose income drops significantly because of the loss of employment, one should check out the available prescription assistance programs (PAPs) available for their prescription. In many cases, if you qualify because of your income, you can receive brand-name medications from the major pharmaceutical manufacturers at little or no cost. This is immensely helpful for folks who need to be on long-term medications for which there are no generic alternatives. Because of the hundreds of available PAP’s, I suggest going to the Partnership for Prescription Assistance website and going through the online qualification process in order to see which of your drugs may be covered by a prescription assistance program. This site can also link you up with statewide or local prescription assistance resources as well.
Over the long run, the cost of prescription drugs must be addressed as part of the process of health care reform. Prescription drug costs are a huge proportion of the dollars spent in this country on health care. Making prescription drugs more affordable and accessible for everyone must be an essential part of any health care reform plan. I encourage everyone to get involved, whether you take prescription drugs or not, in pushing this issue with your local, state, and national elected representatives. People are literally dying because they cannot afford their prescription drugs. This is an unacceptable situation that we cannot allow to continue.
Dr. Darrell Spurlock is a nurse, academic, and writer. His main interests are in health policy, social and health research, human rights, and social justice. He is passionate about the idea that all people have a right to the best possible life, including high-quality health care.
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