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From Texas, USA:

I need a discount program or something for the medications my diabetic husband takes (two diabetes pills, a blood pressure medication, and a stomach medication). They are very expensive, most especially one of the diabetes pills. It costs over a hundred dollars a month, and that is just too high along with all medication that he takes.


Sad to say, there's no easy answer for the patient with diabetes who has limited finances. If you and your husband were truly indigent, you'd be on Medicaid or other welfare programs that would pay for the medications; if your insurance covered the cost of the pills you wouldn't be writing, but for many working people with diabetes, and for many elderly people on Medicare (which doesn't pay for pills), there's only a small amount of money and huge pharmacy bills.

What to do?

  • First, if you have any health insurance, doublecheck and triplecheck if it might cover medications.
  • Second, comparison shop for prices: the prices charged by different pharmacies for the same medications are frequently different.
  • And ask your doctor to word the prescription so the pharmacy can give you their best deal: if you buy only one pill, the cost per pill will be different than if you buy 100 since the pharmacy has the same per-prescription charge to tack on; your doctor can write a prescription that says "Dispense #100 or 3 months supply or 1 month's supply." That way, if there's a better deal for a larger amount (and if you can afford it) you can probably get a price break on a per-pill basis. And no matter what the prescription's limit is, if the pharmacist says he/she can give you a better deal by purchasing a different amount than what's specified on the prescription, ask the pharmacist to call your doctor's office and request authority for the different amount! (Please note: in many managed-care pharmacy plans, there are strict limits on how many pills can be purchased at one time, frequently one month or three months' supply; however, in a case where there is no health insurance, the decision on how many to buy at once is up to the physician, and the patient's pocketbook.)
  • Next: your husband should ask all his doctors for samples every time he's in their offices. Some physicians distribute samples liberally, and the drug companies don't seem to mind.
  • If you're really flat broke, you and your husband may be eligible for assistance programs run by the drug companies. The rules vary from company to company, but your doctor can get forms from the drug company (he/she can ask the drug reps or call the phone number in the PDR) and you fill them out; the doctor will sign a prescription and somewhere on the form you complete.
  • Be sure your husband's doctor knows of the financial problem. Sometimes a swap to a cheaper medication will work just as well as the more expensive medication. The swap might be to a generic version, or to a different compound altogether that does the same general thing (control blood sugar or blood pressure or whatever).
  • Next: If you or your husband smoke, stop. The money you'll save will help pay the pharmacy bills, and will protect your health.
  • Next: there are many hints to save a few pennies here and there: reuse the lancets for fingersticking, reuse the syringes for insulin, don't use alcohol on the skin, test less often if the blood sugar's stable, don't eat out as often, MedicAlert ID is free if your health professional signs off on the need and your financial status, etc., etc. Ask your husband's diabetes team about these ideas.
  • Finally, complain to your congressperson. Send copies of the bills, and a letter signed by your doctor, and add your voice to the many many others who have protested the high prices of these products.


Original posting 22 Mar 1998
Posted to Social Issues: Insurance/Costs


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Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:08:56
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