AMARILLO – For some older Americans, the high cost of prescription drugs is hazardous to their health, said Andrew B. Crocker of Amarillo, Texas Cooperative Extension program specialist in gerontology and health.
A recent survey reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine (Sept. 13, 2004) found the cost of prescription medications to be a serious factor in health care. Participants in the survey were 660 older adults with chronic illnesses who admitted to under-using prescribed medications the year before because of the expense. Two-thirds didn’t tell their health care providers they were going to cut back on their medications, one-third never discussed the topic with the health professional at all, and more than half – 58 percent – said they didn’t believe the health care provider could help them with the problem anyway.
Not taking medications as prescribed can be more detrimental to your health than to your bank account, Crocker said.
“While drug costs continue to increase,” he said, “consider the cost of not treating your medical condition,” including more visits to emergency rooms, more admissions to nursing homes and psychiatric hospitals, and worsening health.
The first step to curing this ill is simple communication.
“First and foremost, talk to your health care provider about the cost of your medications,” Crocker said. “He or she may know of assistance programs or be able to suggest alternative therapies.”
After that, consider using generic or over-the-counter medications when appropriate, he said. “Ask your health care professional if these substitutions are right for you.”
Buying in bulk can also be a money-saver. “Talk to your health professional or pharmacist about receiving larger quantities of prescription medications,” Crocker said. Perhaps a 90-day supply would be cheaper in the long run than a 30-day supply, he suggested.
And don’t forget to seek out assistance programs. “Federal and state government agencies, private foundations and many pharmaceutical companies offer assistance programs to individuals who meet certain levels of need,” Crocker said.
Bottom line: Communication is the key to affordable medications.
The authors of the study suggest medical personnel should take a more active role in discussing the problem with patients and helping them find ways to pay for medications.
Crocker advises older adults to do the same.
“Talk to your health provider about problems affording your prescription medications,” he said.
More information can be found at:
- Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services: http://www.medicare.gov or (800) MEDICARE;
- Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services: http://www.dads.state.tx.us/services/txcares/index.html ;
- Area Agencies on Aging of Texas: http://www.dads.state.tx.us/contact/aaa_directory.html or (800) 252-9240;
- NeedyMeds: http://www.needymeds.com ; and
- Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America: http://www.helpingpatients.org
For more information on this and other issues on aging, visit Extension’s Family and Consumer Sciences Web site at http://fcs.tamu.edu/ and click on the link to Family Life.