Doctor’s Tip: How you and your doc can fight drug costs
August 21, 2017
A column earlier this month discussed pharmaceutical companies and their resistance to fixing our broken and expensive health care (disease management?) system.
People with insurance often aren't aware of the cost of pharmaceuticals, but high drug costs contribute to high insurance premiums. Physicians often are not aware of the cost of drugs they prescribe. Unfortunately, Big Pharma has powerful lobbyists in Washington and makes large campaign contributions to legislators, so the system is tilted in its favor.
The July issue of the American Family Physician had an editorial about "Drug Price Gouging: When Will It End?" It listed the following suggestions for health-care professionals:
• Always prescribe generics when available.
• Learn the cost of non-generic medications you prescribe when no generics are available.
• Stop justifying prescribing high-cost drugs by assuming that insurance will pay for them so it doesn't matter. It does matter, because expensive drugs increase the cost of medical care for all of us.
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• Shun samples left by pharmaceutical reps, because they are brand-name and usually expensive. There is a good argument that drug reps shouldn't be allowed in physician offices.
• Do not use new drugs until they have been out for a while and have proven to be safe and cost-effective.
Here are my suggestions for what patients can do:
• The best way to beat Big Pharma at its own game is to exercise regularly and eat an optimal diet, therefore eliminating or at least reducing the need for medications.
• Always request generics from your provider.
• Have your doctor prescribe a higher dose and cut pills in half with a pill splitter. Pharmaceutical companies caution against doing this but that advice is given so they can sell more pills.
• Lobby Washington to do away with the law that prevents Medicare from negotiating for the best drug prices.
• Lobby Washington to prevent new "me too" drugs, which add cost to the system without benefit to patients.
• Lobby Washington to prevent direct marketing of drugs to patients (TV and magazine ads).
• Lobby Washington to institute universal, single-payer health care ("Medicare for all") with medication coverage (yes, some of us will pay higher taxes, but it's the right thing to do, and we'll all benefit).
The American Family Physician editorial mentions a potential problem that would adversely affect all of us: As part of the current administration's goal of eliminating regulations, officials "plan to have the FDA approve drugs that seem safe but whose effectiveness has not been proven. This would take us back to the days of snake oil, only at greatly increased expense, when products could be promoted without proof they worked."
Dr. Feinsinger, who retired from Glenwood Medical Associates after 42 years as a family physician, now has a nonprofit Center For Prevention and Treatment of Disease Through Nutrition. He is available for free consultations about heart attack prevention and any other medical concerns. Call 970-379-5718 for an appointment. For questions about his columns, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.