The escalating costs of drug prescriptions have become a great roadblock in the healthcare system, especially in the U.S. Many patients are experiencing the pain of sticker shock on their prescriptions and end up skipping them, even with higher copays and high deductibles.
In fact, approximately 20 to 30 percent of prescriptions are never filled due to unexpected costs. Such circumstances affect the whole healthcare system to a great extent. What can the best and most effective drug in the world do if the patient doesn’t take it? Unfilled prescriptions only lead to more health problems from untreated medical conditions.
Doctors, being one of the primary prescribers, play an essential role in alleviating this predicament. Although they don’t have control over the prices of drug prescriptions, they may have the power to help patients save money on their prescriptions. Keep reading to find out what doctors can do.
Physician Awareness of Drug Costs
When prescribing medicines, doctors need to consider what is clinically optimal for their patient’s condition. But due to the sky-high prices of medications, they also have to think about the patient’s financial circumstances. The problem is doctors don’t always know what their patients will have to pay for prescriptions.
Certain studies indicate that doctors have a poor understanding when it comes to pharmaceutical costs. As a result, they tend to prescribe medicines that are expensive and beyond the patients’ means.
Increasing physician awareness of drug costs can be the first step to help patients save on their prescriptions. When they know the price of the medications they are prescribing, they can bring up the cost of care to their patients and discuss less costly options.
Ways To Help Patients Get More Affordable Medications
Safety and effectiveness are doctors’ priorities when choosing treatment or prescriptions for their patients. But because of monetary constraints, exploring feasible alternatives without compromising patients’ health is of utmost importance.
Here are some ways a doctor can do to help his or her patients get more affordable medications:
Ask Patients Upfront About Costs
Discussing financial concerns may add to the complexity of a doctor-patient relationship. But it is necessary, especially when such concerns clash with the indicated medical treatment. Doctors have to realize that most patients may not be forthright about their financial need when acquiring a certain prescription.
AARP poll results show that nearly half of those burdened by their medication costs have not talked to their doctors. Although there are no reasons indicated, the ongoing mistrust of patients towards the doctors is probably one.
Many patients are reluctant because they believe that pharmaceutical companies have some influence on doctors’ prescribing patterns. To prevent this from happening, doctors may have to ask patients upfront about financial barriers. Doing so can help build trust and discuss a number of viable options.
Refer To Patient Assistance Programs
There are patient assistance programs offered by pharmaceutical companies, non-profit organizations, or state governments. They are generally designed to help patients acquire their prescriptions at a very low cost or no cost at all. The good news is doctors can refer their patients to these programs.
Every program may have different requirements, but all require a doctor’s signature. Through this, doctors can help patients who are eligible for such assistance. But it’s worth noting that lack of physician cooperation is one of the problems patients encounter when applying to the program. Even so, many doctors are more considerate and willing to help.
Provide Generic Options
Several studies have shown that brand-name drugs and generic equivalents produced similar clinical results. However, some doctors are still concerned about their safety and efficacy, making them less likely to prescribe generic medications.
Although there are some cases where a branded medication may be more clinically appropriate, providing generic options is still a good alternative to improve health and prevent harm. It’s because brand-name drugs are pretty much likely to go unfilled than generic ones.
Patients are more inclined to adhere to long-term treatment with medicines that cost less. With that, a generic prescription is way much better than patients entirely skipping them. But doctors’ interactive education and public awareness must continue to change the negative perception towards generic options.
Consider Prescription Discount Cards
There are prescription discount cards that are primarily distributed through doctors’ offices. Such discount cards can be helpful to patients who can afford to pay part of their prescription costs. However, discounts depend on several factors, such as the type of prescription and the individual’s situation.
It should be noted, though, that not all prescriptions are eligible for a discount. Although doctors can match a prescription to an available discount coupon, it may not work all the time. Nevertheless, patients can get up to 80% off the retail price if their prescriptions are eligible and use the right discount card.
Utilize Drug Samples
Some pharmaceutical companies allow providers to request free medication samples. Doctors have a supply of these drug samples, and they can utilize them for patients who need to save money on their prescriptions. But note that it is only applicable for a short period of time since these samples are limited.
It may work for patients who only need temporary help to acquire their prescriptions. Drug samples can also be helpful if the patient is only starting on a new medication. It will keep them from paying unnecessary expenses in case there are intolerable side effects. But then again, utilizing drug samples is only a temporary solution.
Prescribe A 90-Day Supply
Instead of refilling a prescription every month, doctors can also prescribe a 90-day supply for their patients’ prescriptions. Doing such can help save them money on medication and even transportation costs. In fact, patients can save out-pocket costs on their prescriptions to as much as 29% if they purchase a 90-day supply.
But this 90-day refill option may only be eligible for medications used to treat chronic or long-term conditions. If the patient is only starting on a new prescription, doctors may not recommend it too. It will only be a waste of money if the patient experiences severe side effects with the new medication.
Review Insurance Coverage
Doctors can also help their patients save thousands on prescriptions if they review insurance-specific drug approvals. Note that insurance companies usually have specific rules for coverage of certain prescriptions. But doctors may try to prescribe a drug with the same efficacy yet are covered in their patient’s insurance.
Reminders To Patients
Doctors have a role to play in helping patients find appropriate and affordable prescriptions. However, they can only do so much. If you’re struggling to afford your medications, you also have to open up your concerns to the doctor. Bear in mind that your health should be your top priority, no matter how much you pay for your medication.
Don’t hesitate to speak up to your doctor if you have financial concerns. Your honesty and openness are also essential, so they can help you explore options that are most beneficial to you. Remember that help is available as long as you ask the right person.
The costs of prescriptions have long been a dilemma to most patients. But until there is no viable resolution between the lawmakers, insurance, and pharmaceutical companies, the prices will keep soaring. What the healthcare system can do now is a collaborative effort between the doctors and patients in using all possible ways to reduce their prescription costs.