If You Are Sick… It Sucks To Be You.
The headline in the New York Times for July 8, 2014 read:
“Rapid Price Increases for Some Generic Drugs Catch Users by Surprise”
The picture as shown above from that same article showed a patient meeting with her doctor. She needs a drug called “Digoxin” for her heart. It is the only pill that works for her. And she is not alone. There are hundreds of millions of people who need medicine to maintain their quality of life. With Big Pharm taking full advantage of drugs they produce still on patent, basically charging whatever they want, without insurance, you simply cannot afford to be healthy anymore.
Generic drug availability was supposed to take care of that. Obviously, with companies taking advantage of expired patents, drastically cheaper and affordable alternatives would finally offer patients a difference between affording life or choosing death. But as new drugs come out to the market, once again on patent, two things happen. Television commercials begin to appear telling patients the best new drug to do better than what a patient was already taking is available and needs to be discussed with their doctor. This is followed by a lowered demand for the generic drug that many people rely on. Then of course you factor in the costs to pharmacies, with surely the small “mom and pop” pharmacies not able to compete at all with the super chain pharmacies. Even with insurance, you may no longer be able to take the drugs that have worked for you, simply because it is not convenient for Big Pharm.
Even though I am lucky to have insurance that includes prescriptions, my insurance still tries to dictate to me whether I will take the generic or the original name brand drug. As a rule, I have always taken the name brand because a) I have always believed the name brand to be better than the generic, and b) I had the insurance to cover the cost. Over the years however, my prescription plan tiered to make name brand more expensive to me, so of course eventually I adjusted to taking the cheaper generic drugs.
But as pointed out by potential presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, Independent Senator from the state of Vermont, generic prices are soaring out of control. If it is not health care costs going out of control for profit at the expense of a human life, health insurance also contributed to this skyrocketing cost, but as more patients turned away from the expensive alternatives to save and maintain their lives to cheaper costing generic drugs, Big Pharm did the only thing it could to solve its need for greed… jacking up generic costs.
This is disgusting for a couple of reasons. Generics finally offered an alternative for people to take care of their health who otherwise could not. But for those who are fortunate enough to have insurance that includes prescriptions, now those insurance companies are beginning to dictate what drugs they will cover, even though they are generic. And the reaction, as should be expected, the less a drug is being prescribed, the more the price will go up as well, even if it is generic. And that is what is happening.
Okay, so I addressed the issue skyrocketing generic drug prices. People without any insurance covering generic prescriptions will no longer be able to afford medicines. Those with insurance that provides coverage should be okay for now. But what about the people in the middle? What about those on Medicare and fixed income? For a family I know, this has become a real issue. They are covered under Medicare and also have AARP insurance. But because of the level of retirement income received, their prescription coverage has maxed out, and we are only in the middle of October. This means that the elderly couple cannot afford their medicines for the next two and a half months, medicines they need to keep them alive. While some may argue that if they income level is too high for the benefits, then that is the couple’s problem. No, it is not. With the cost of living going up every year, rent, fuel, gas, food, GENERIC PRESCRIPTION DRUGS, but their fixed income remains the same, year after year, where exactly is their income level too high? Their income stays the same while all of their expenses continue to rise.
I wish I had an answer to this dilemma, which is why I turn to you, the readers of “Paul’s Heart.” I know this family is not the only one going through this issue. But I am at a loss for anymore solutions to offer them, as I have tried even using common sense to help solve their needs, and nothing has helped.
So the question is this…
“For those who must deal with this “donut hole” for prescription medicine, how do you afford your medicine, or are you simply rolling the dice until the next year comes around?”
I need your help. This family needs your help. They are elderly, with one spouse dealing with both cancer and dementia combined, and at least for the next two and a half months cannot afford the medicine needed to deal with these two major health ailments, along with the other medicines taken. Comments shared on this blog are kept confidential unless you specify otherwise. And keep this in mind, your replies will not only help this family, but many others who read “Paul’s Heart.”