Save a Bundle on Prescription Drugs

Prescription drugs can and often are the largest medical expense in many households. I don’t think anyone objects to drug companies continuing to research and develop drugs that can improve our quality of life or even extend our lives. However, no one wants to pay more than they have to for their prescription medications.

Most people can save 50% or more on their prescriptions if they take a few extra steps and research their options. Being a smart shopper and plus a little insider-information can help you get the most for you medical dollar. Whether you have medical drug coverage or pay for your prescriptions out of pocket, you can learn a few techniques in order to save a buck or three on your next refill.

The first tip is to price shop. Prescription drug prices often vary as much as 25% from one pharmacy to another just down the street. Don’t assume that the big name superstores or drug chains hold a lock on low prices. Many smaller stores seek out drug wholesalers and pass these savings onto you, the customer, in order to get you into their stores where you will likely pick up additional items you need.

Do a little homework and find out if the drug store offers a discount ‘valued customer’ program. These VIP subscriptions sometimes are free and some charge a nominal fee and then provide substantial discounts, refunds, coupons or other incentives to shop in their store. On the surface, you drug price may be higher than another store that does not offer a loyalty program but when you consider the overall benefits and savings, you can come out well ahead on one of these style offers.

Buy Online

There is the potential that you can save a bundle by shopping for your prescription drugs online. Online drug retailers and wholesalers have a much lower operation expense and can offer 20% to 60% savings, sometimes even more. This requires some time to research and will likely be of more benefit to those who have ongoing prescription needs or have a chronic condition that will require long-term drug treatment. Just be sure that you buy from domestic providers that display the Verified Internet Pharmacy Provider Site (VIPPS) seal.

Buy Older Drugs

This does not mean expiring drugs, just older in terms of having been around for a while. Avoid new trendy drugs as these are usually the most expensive options. Unless there is a compelling reason to move to a new drug that does something that no other drug can do, opt for the less-expensive option. Sometimes new drugs are just a combination of two or more older drugs. Buying them separately can be significantly less expensive that the new combination.

Buy In Quantity

Usually, buying a 90-day or 180-day supply will be a lot cheaper per day than buying in smaller quantity. Ask your doctor if you can get a larger refill prescription if you are taking an ongoing medication regiment.

Go Generic

This may be obvious but drugs whose patent has expired can be manufactured by others and this will lower the price of the drug significantly. Always ask your doctor or your pharmacist if a generic-equivalent is available. This can really drop your prescription drug bills.

Online Courses in the Healthcare Industry: Educating Patients

For healthcare professionals – be it hospital staff, medical representatives or bio-scientists developing new drugs, online learning courses can provide training and support in a variety of ways. For patients and caregivers too, who are at the other end of the spectrum in the healthcare industry, e-learning has a lot to offer. While every healthcare organization has available literature providing detailed information on the above, patients are often not able to perceive or understand them well to take informed decisions. This is where online learning courses can come into play.

  • An illness of any kind is daunting for an individual. For the lack of time, doctors or nurses are often unable to sit with patients and discuss their options at length with them. Misconceptions and myths concerning certain illnesses also hinder an open face-to-face discussion. Online learning courses enabled learning allows patients as well as caregivers to gather information at their own pace and in a secure environment.
  • A number of strategies can be employed to put the learner at ease and help them understand their options better. For instance, we developed a course on IVF for one of India’s leading IVF specialists, where scenarios were built with real-life people, practical problems and solutions. The learners were informed about IVF, various procedures and their options with the help of these scenarios.
  • Information and interactivities within an online learning course can prepare patients for the meeting with the doctor. This shortens the time spent on making them understand the mundane necessities and can be better spent in actual face-to-face interactions. For instance, in a course on a debilitating gastrointestinal disorder, we included clinic forms which the patients need to fill to get treatment for the disease. Important portions of the form like healthcare insurance details, details of previous treatments and history of vaccinations were highlighted to make sure that the patients can produce these details quickly and take the minimum time to fill in the forms in a correct manner.
  • Perhaps the most important benefit of technology-aided learning for healthcare patients is that it makes understanding complex procedures possible, even if he or she is a layman. With e-learning, graphics and 2D and 3D animations can be used to visually re-create complex procedures and break them down to individual steps to aid understanding. The patients have the option of re-enforcing their understanding by reading up the material whenever they need and sharing it with their family and friends as well.
  • In addition to information on the illness, treatment options and procedures, online learning courses can also provide the much needed mental and emotional support for patients as well as their caregivers. By sharing coping mechanisms, important resources, links and practical insights that is available to patients and their families at all times, e-courses can provide long term support. This is especially important if the treatment options have a long term implication on the quality of a patient’s life.
  • With the aid of technology, we can also create a virtual community of patients and caregivers. Discussion boards, wikis or blogs can be created inviting patients and their families to share experiences. It can double up as a searchable knowledge repository, where they can search for information and share it further. This will help dealing with their illness better and dispel the feeling of alienation that often accompanies illness.

There are many ways of creating a technology-aided solution to help patients and their families. More and more doctors and healthcare providers are turning to these solutions to help their patients better.

The Rising Cost of Prescription Drugs

If you’re like many Americans, the rising cost of prescription drugs may be costing you your health. In particular, seniors living on a fixed income with no insurance are finding it difficult to pay for necessary prescriptions out-of-pocket, and as a result, may be failing to receive the treatment they need to stay healthy. Often, the struggle can put a big strain on seniors’ finances.

But why are prescription drug prices so high, especially when most people who require medication are usually not in a financial position that allows them to afford the full price tag? The real reasons are more complicated than what you might suspect, but one thing’s for certain – drug prices have been skyrocketing.

The reason that is most often touted (by the drug companies, of course) for the high price of drugs is research and development (R&D) costs. The drug companies contest that the only way to pay for the development of new life-saving drugs – that will improve the lives of millions of Americans – is through profits from current drug sales. The high prices, they say, are merely a reflection of the spending that is necessary for the creation of newer, better drugs.

But is this the truth? Are drug companies using a large percentage of current prescription drug sales to fund R&D? If so, are the new drugs under development truly going to improve the health of the people who need them most? Sadly, this doesn’t appear to be the case.

In reality, drug companies spend more on advertising, lobbying and political contributions than they do on research and development. Most of the money you pay for prescription medication ends up in the pockets of marketers and politicians, so that you can be convinced that you need the “newer” and “better” drugs that are under development.

In addition, research and development tends to focus on more “marketable” types of drugs that the drug companies can sell to the largest amounts of people. How many times have you seen advertisements for a drug that can help alleviate such serious medical conditions as social anxiety disorder and seasonal allergies? Unfortunately, this means that most large drug companies tend to neglect the development of life-saving drugs for more serious conditions, as the numbers are not there to rake in high profits.

Developing new allergy or anxiety drugs, however, does not require massive amounts of money, as these drugs have already been developed. Neither does rehashing previously developed drugs to be marketed for a new ailment. Usually the newer drugs under “development” aren’t new at all. So even the money that is spent on R&D, it can be argued, is an unnecessary expense driven by the market more than by the country’s medical needs.

Unfortunately for the consumer, all the money spent on advertising rather than development, and providing drug information to physicians about specific new drugs that need to be marketed, makes it very likely that you will end up paying more money than you should. Also, because your doctor is only provided with information on the latest and “greatest” drugs, he/she will be more likely to prescribe you the more expensive drugs. Perhaps surprisingly, there are older versions of drugs on the market that work just as well as their updated counterparts (sometimes better) as well as generic versions of brand name drugs that come at a significantly reduced cost. Of course, the drug companies do not market these drugs and do all they can to keep generic drugs off the shelves for as long as possible.

That’s another place your money goes when you buy prescription drugs – lawyers. Drug companies spend a lot of money paying for court cases to extend the patents of certain drugs. Even though the cases are often lost in the end, court processes can take months to resolve – buying more time for the drug companies to be the sole profiteers of a particular drug. When the patent on a drug runs out, other companies are allowed to create and sell a generic version of the drug. It is usually sold for a lower price, which takes customers away from the brand name and reduces that drug company’s profits. In the end, patents are often extended anyway because the drug company finds a new application for the drug, thus artificially extending the life of the patent and keeping generics off the shelves. You end up paying more because a less expensive generic alternative is not available and you are forced to shell out for the higher priced brand name drug instead.

For the lucky people who have insurance that covers the cost of their drugs, this may be indirectly allowing the drug companies to charge more than they would if everyone had to pay full price. Because many people never see the true cost of their prescriptions, the price is not something they worry about. As a result, drug companies feel freer to raise prices and costs continue to rise. The bottom line? A large percentage of what you pay for drugs is taken as profit.

What Can You Do To Lower Your Drug Costs?

Understanding why drug costs are so high, you may feel that it is impossible to find a way to reduce them. But this simply isn’t true. There are several things you can do to make prescription drugs more affordable.

As mentioned briefly above, it pays (literally) to be informed. If your doctor doesn’t possess the knowledge regarding all the drug choices available for your condition, take initiative and conduct some of your own research. Ask your doctor if there are any older versions of the newest drug you’ve been prescribed and find out if the drug is as effective. If it can do the job just as well as its newer relation, and comes with a cheaper price tag, it won’t take you long to make a decision.

Secondly, find out if there are any generic versions of the drug you need available in your area. Generic drugs are the same drug but without the brand name price tag. This type of drug is similar to the no-name brands you find in your local grocery store. The product is exactly the same but less expensive because you’re not paying for the name (and hence the advertising).

If you are uninsured or underinsured, make sure you exhaust all your insurance options. Calculate the costs associated with purchasing an insurance plan and determine whether or not you can find a plan that will ultimately weigh in your favor. Also, find out if you can benefit from Medicare. Medicare Part D is one option you should research, although for many Americans it has actually made prescription drugs more expensive and seems to have been created to benefit the drug companies rather than the American public. The process can be confusing, but if you take the time to find out if you are one of the lucky few to benefit, it could be worth your while.

Finally, many Americans have chosen to order discount drugs online, from either American or Canadian pharmacies. American online pharmacies offer older and generic versions of drugs at a reduced cost, while Canadian operations can actually offer brand name prescriptions (or whatever prescription you require) for a significantly lower price. This is simply because the Canadian Government regulates the cost of drugs, which means you pay less at the cash register. As long as the pharmacy is licensed to conduct international pharmacy services, ordering online from a Canadian pharmacy is a safe and affordable alternative to the high cost of drugs in the U.S.