“That’ll be $187.”
I just blinked at the pharmacy technician. “And you ran that through my health insurance?” I asked. “Yep. That new medicine isn’t available in a generic yet.” I mentally started running through ways to carve out an extra $200 a month in the family budget to cover my son’s new asthma medicine without upsetting our carefully planned budget. While in shock over the out of pocket price, I was still thankful that he only had to take medicine for 6 months out of the year. Some families aren’t so lucky. I’ve had many patients over the years who have had to make the hard choice between paying for medications or paying for utilities and groceries. Prescription drugs can be brutal to pay for, even with decent health insurance coverage.
These days, I often find myself providing in-depth lessons on how to get the most out of your medications thanks to the ever-rising cost of healthcare. Here are a few tips I give my patients.
Getting the Most Out of Your Medication
- Take your medication at the same time everyday. Set a timer if necessary and stick to your schedule. Varying administration times affects the level of medication in your bloodstream creating times when you are absorbing too much or too little of your medications that can result in erratic effectiveness.
- Take your vitamins and prescriptions with water only and avoid drinking any juices or caffeinated beverages for an hour before or after taking your medicine.
- Always read the literature that comes with your medication from the pharmacy. Be aware of common side effects and symptoms of life threatening conditions that can occur with any prescription medication, such as an allergic reaction, heart palpitations, or liver damage.
- Know what your pills normally look like and question the pharmacist if anything changes in the appearance of your medications from month to month. Also, count the number of pills in the bottle before leaving the pharmacy. Even pharmacists sometimes make a mistake and you want to make sure you get what you pay for each month.
- Take a liquid multivitamin instead of a pill. Many multivitamins are poorly absorbed, especially if you have any conditions that affect your digestive system, and end up passing through your system intact. This is particularly true for some treated pills, like oyster shell calcium tablets. Some pills can be crushed or dissolved before ingesting to increase absorption, but always check with your doctor or pharmacist first before altering any medication.
- Talk to your doctor about the appropriateness of taking a generic medication versus a name brand drug. Some practitioners prefer patients take name brand medications for serious conditions, while others believe that generic brands are fine. Be sure you know which is appropriate in your case.
- Talk to your pharmacist to see if any of the medications you are taking should be combined with vitamins or minerals for better absorption. Conversely, always be aware of what over the counter drugs and supplements are contraindicated while taking your prescribed drugs.
- If one of your medications is outrageously expensive, talk to your doctor. Often, your physician has several options to choose from when prescribing a medication. Come prepared with a formulary from your health insurance company that shows the cost tiers of common medications to help your physician make an informed choice about prescribing a cost-effective treatment. Your doctor cares about your health and will work with you to find an affordable treatment solution. He or she may even be able to provide coupons for drugs and samples to help alleviate the strain on your wallet.
Getting the most out of your medication includes being an informed consumer and knowing what steps to take to ensure your medications work at peak effectiveness. Be honest with your healthcare practitioner about your need to save money on prescriptions. Most doctors and nurse practitioners are happy to accommodate your budget restraints whenever possible- it means you’re more likely to pay their medical fees on time.