One of the biggest challenges facing Americans as they age is the cost of their prescription medications. And this is a problem that doesn’t look like it will go away anytime soon as prices continue to increase. According to a 2016 AARP survey of nearly 2,000 adults over the age of 50, 81 percent of the respondents believe that drug prices are too high, and nine out of 10 want politicians to solve the problem.
That said, older patients often pay full price for brand-name prescription medications that aren’t covered by their insurance, even though less expensive generic versions are available. So why does this happen? Often, it’s simply because the patient doesn’t know to ask the doctor or pharmacist. For many older Americans, questioning a doctor’s orders makes them uncomfortable, so they stay silent.
In a recent poll of more than 2,100 adults between the ages of 50 and 80, 27 percent said they considered their prescription costs a financial burden. However, nearly half of those seniors don’t talk to their doctors about how to save money on prescriptions, even though two-thirds of those who do ask their doctors about it get recommendations on less expensive drugs.
One of the most commonly prescribed medications among older Americans is metformin, which is aimed at lowering blood sugar in Type 2 diabetics and is available as a generic. However, it is also available under the brand names Glucophage, Glucophage XR and a few others. What’s the difference between metformin and Glucophage? Actually, very little. Glucophage XR is formulated as an extended release tablet, but metformin is the primary ingredient working in your body when you take either of the brand-name versions, so the benefits are similar.
Another commonly prescribed generic medication is lisinopril, which reduces high blood pressure and decreases the risk of heart failure, as well as protecting the kidneys from the damage that can be inflicted by high blood pressure or diabetes. While lisinopril is mostly prescribed in the generic form, it is also available under the brand name Zestril, which is typically more expensive.
In some cases, if the doctor prescribes a brand-name medication, the pharmacy will fill it with the generic unless the doctor specifically requests the brand, which could occur if the patient has an adverse reaction to the generic. However, it’s not a certainty that they will and policies can vary based on the pharmacy. So the best approach is to talk to your physician and ask.
Patients are frequently advised to consult a physician any time that they make a change that might affect their health, such as new medications, drastic diet changes or a new exercise program. In general, having an open dialogue with your doctor results in better health outcomes because he or she has all the information needed to give you the best advice and provide the most effective treatment.
That said, talking to your doctor might also save you some money on your medications. If you think you might be paying too much at the pharmacy, feel free to contact us for an appointment so we can discuss your prescription medications with you.