In 2017, the U.S.’ total prescription drug spending was $333 billion, a 40% increase from a decade earlier, when it was $236 billion, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Cole Zanetti, DO, MPH, routinely helps his patients find the prescription drugs they need at lower prices.
“Every dollar saved can have a huge impact on patients who struggle to pay for their medications, patients who sometimes have to decide between paying for medicine and putting food on the table,” says Dr. Zanetti, the director for digital health at Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine and a board-certified family medicine and preventive medicine physician.
Here are four ways Dr. Zanetti has helped his patients find more affordable medications:
1. Prescription drug discount cards: Offered by a variety of organizations, patients can present the card at participating pharmacies to get a discount on the list price of typically thousands of different medications.
“A printed card that patients can show at a pharmacy, like an insurance card, is a great option for patients who face technological barriers,” says AOA CEO Kevin Klauer, DO, EJD.
The cards provide an average of 30 percent off of any medication that is not covered by insurance, regardless of whether the patient is insured. More than 68,000 national and regional pharmacies are participating in the free coupon program, according to Dr. Klauer. Patients and physicians can also use the discount card’s companion drug pricing tool and pharmacy locator to comparison shop.
“Our physicians are understandably frustrated when their patients can’t get important medications because they are uninsured or their plan won’t cover a specific drug. We hope this prescription savings card helps patients get the medicine they need and we encourage DOs to share it with any patients it might benefit,” says AOA President Ronald Burns, DO.
In some cases, the card has reduced costs to patients by as much as 75%, he adds.
Non-member DOs may also create and print the AOA prescription drug discount card and are invited to share the link with their patients.
2. Walmart’s $4 list: Walmart offers a vast array of medications at $4 for a 30-day supply and $10 for a 90-day supply for all patients regardless of insurance coverage, Dr. Zanetti notes. Beyond the $4 program, the retailer also offers steep discounts on other medications.
“Walmart’s $4 prescriptions have been a huge game changer for many patients,” he says. “Some people are being charged up to $400-$800 for their insulin regimen for a 90-day supply, yet some of these products are available for $25 from Walmart.”
3. 90-day supply: When your patient has a stable medical condition, Dr. Zanetti recommends prescribing a 90-day supply of their medication, as a 90-day supply is often cheaper than filling a 30-day supply three times.
4. Mail-order pharmacies: Mail-order options are often cheaper for patients, Dr. Zanetti notes.
Boosting patients’ health
As a family physician, Dr. Zanetti has worked with patients who were spending much more money on medication, particularly insulin and drugs for diabetes, because they didn’t know more affordable options were available. Helping patients save money this way can significantly impact their overall health, he notes.
“It’s about saving patients money that they really need to spend on paying bills and eating healthier as opposed to essentially throwing money away because they are not using these available discounts,” he says.