Healthcare expenses in the United States have escalated in recent years. Insurance premiums, copays and deductibles have taken a huge bite out of the pockets of consumers. The cost of medications has proportionately soared despite the economic downturn.
As an asthma care provider, I know the importance of reminding my patients to continue to take their controller inhalants long after cough, wheezing or shortness of breath has gone. Controllers help to prevent the return of asthma symptoms, and raise the threshold for future events triggered by an assortment of exposures (cold air, allergens, colds, fumes and other irritants). Adherence to maintenance plans can be short-circuited by the increasing cost of the medications. When you are feeling well, it is easier to rationalize skipping doses of medication in order to save money (stretching the medication). Yet, such practice often lowers the effectiveness of the maintenance strategy.
What to do?
Discuss the concerns you have about cost of medications with your doctor. Be honest about how you have used your inhalers and what it may take to better adhere to the recommended schedule. Sometimes it may coincidentally, be time to reduce the dose or number of puffs of certain controller medications, because of previous good control.
Get a list of preferred medications from you insurance carrier (perhaps you can download the list from their website). Ask your doctor to review the list to see if controller medications may be switched, if current ones are on the non-preferred list, or high tier (tier 1 meds are usually generics, tier 2 are preferred and tier 3 are often non-preferred, most costly).
Don’t be shy. Ask if there are available samples when you are in for office visits. Your doctor may have a closet or cabinet of free samples which cannot be sold, and must be given away before they reach their expiration date.
Periodically check the company website of your asthma inhaler. Many of them will post coupons and discount offers which can be downloaded.
Ask the nurse or doctor if they have any discount coupons. Pharmaceutical Reps often leave a small stack of them when they bring the samples of medication. The coupons also have expiration dates so beware.
Ask your doctor or nurse if there are brochures which address special needs (for hardship or senior citizens etc.). Some major pharmaceutical companies (Merck, Glaxo Smith Kline and others) have programs for low income patients to receive discounted or free medication. Health Pro Rick Frea provided links to several websites in a posting last July (see below).
Although new medications are often non-preferred, or on the highest tier, many companies have huge discounts for them. The discounts make the newer medications more available, in order to compete with the market demand for less expensive or more well-covered brands. There is nothing wrong with asking your doctor about new medications which may replace ones you currently use. They may actually be more affordable.
Good asthma control can be very difficult when you are required to take expensive daily medications for months to years. As medication costs and insurance coverage move in opposite directions (costs up, coverage down) controlling asthma potentially suffers. Hopefully some of the above tips will help you to maintain good asthma control, and save a few dollars.
Do you have other suggestions on how to save on medications?
Board Certified Allergist and Asthma Specialist