Battling High Drug Costs in a Low Economy

piggybank_pillsAn article from last week’s New York Times explores the pressure the economy puts on patients at the pharmacy counter.

One recent Wednesday, James S. Crawford, newly discharged from the hospital after his third heart attack, fanned six green slips across the counter as if showing a hand of cards. There were a pair for high blood pressure, one each for angina, cholesterol, and acid reflux, and a renal vitamin for his kidney disease. “I need to know the prices,” he said.

Ms. Suber, the pharmacist, explained what each drug was for and listed the co-payments under Mr. Crawford’s Medicare plan, ranging from $8.25 to $18.49 for a one-month supply. The renal vitamin, at $21.89, was not covered.

Mr. Crawford, 61, who makes do on $1,800 a month in Social Security and veterans’ benefits, decided he could afford only the heart, blood pressure and acid reflux pills. “If I can rob a bank,” he said, chuckling, “I’ll be back for the others.”

Drug prices are likely to be an issue for those patients who are less well-off financially, even those who are working hard to use generics whenever possible. For the rest of us, taking brands when a generic will do costs the nation $42 billion a year.

Imagine what would happen if we could turn that waste into needed assistance for those most in a bind. Would you try a generic instead of a brand if you knew it would help others in need?

(Note: this entry originally appeared at

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