The High Cost of Prescription Drugs

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • There are many people in the United States that put off filling prescriptions because they cannot afford to do so. Some must make a choice between paying their rent or mortgage, buying food for their families or taking their medication. The choice is not always clear. When medication is a necessity, putting off purchasing medications isn't always an option. Food budgets will have to be decreased or rent or mortgage payments late or not paid at all.


    And yet, pharmaceutical companies are showing record profits. These companies list research and development of new drugs as one of the reasons that prescription medications cost so much. According to a paper presented to the Prescription Drug Task Force in the U.S. House of Representatives by the Boston University School of Public Health, pharmaceutical companies claim that 20% of the cost of a new medication is in research and development, however, this fails to take into account that this budget includes not just medical research and development but marketing research. This includes the cost of advertising their new medications on television, hoping that consumers will ask their doctors to write a prescription.

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    In addition to the high cost of creating a new drug, insurance companies often negotiate to pay a discounted price to the pharmaceutical companies for their insured. For those without insurance, the price is raised to make up the difference. For those without health or prescription coverage, the cost of medication can be enormous.


    A close friend of mine has a son with mental illness. He has been diagnosed with ADHD, Clinical Depression, Bipolar Disorder and Schizoaffective Disorder. He takes three medications on a regular basis. These medications combined cost nearly $1000.00 per month. His mental illness prevents him from holding a full time job, and therefore, he is without group health insurance. Without medical assistance, he would not be able to afford medication. There have been times that he has been without medical assistance, sometimes because he did not follow up with the paperwork, at other times because he took a low paying job and lost his medical assistance, and my friend has asked her church for assistance, completed paperwork to have medications provided through the pharmaceutical companies assistance programs. Without this medication, her son becomes suicidal. His medication is a matter of life and death.


    She would like to be able to know that no matter what happened, she would be able to keep her son on medication, that she would be able to help him and keep him alive. But she can't. She can't afford $1000.00 per month. She can't pay for his prescriptions and pay her mortgage and other bills and buy food for the family. As a mother, how do you live with a choice when one option would put a family out on the streets and another may increase the chances of one member dying from a suicide attempt? What would you choose?

Published On: December 10, 2007