SingleCare on prescription drug prices in 2022
Millions of Americans depend on prescription drugs to help them function, but as the cost of drugs rises each year, it becomes increasingly difficult to meet them.
About 18 million Americans said they were unable to afford at least one prescription drug for their household, according to a 2021 survey by management consulting firm Gallup and the medical research organization West Health. And drug prices are only set to rise: SingleCare, a free drug savings service, found that 852 prescription drugs saw an average price increase of 8.1%, or about $49 in 2022.
“Unless there is drastic action from the government, I don’t foresee things getting any better,” says Ramzi Yacoub, Chief Pharmacy Officer at SingleCare. “That’s why we want to provide transparency and show how prices have changed, because it impacts our patients’ budgets.”
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Yacoub notes that many major drugmakers had pledged to limit annual increases to less than 10%, but verbal promises can be broken. Drugmaker Merck has raised prices 11% in recent years, while Amgen raised prices 10% last year. And while platforms like SingleCare can offer discounts at thousands of pharmacies, those discounts can’t always offset constant price increases.
“Even an 8.1% increase is pretty significant, especially when it comes to seniors who are mostly on fixed incomes,” says Jennifer Bourgeois, a McKinney, Texas-based clinical pharmacist and award winner. of SingleCare’s Best Pharmacist 2021. “Ultimately, this translates to poor health outcomes because people cannot afford the drugs they need.”
If people can’t treat their conditions at home, with the medications they’re prescribed, it can lead to increased doctor and emergency room visits, Bourgeois says. Essentially, drug prices affect the entire healthcare ecosystem — and since nearly half of Americans have reported to SingleCare that they skip prescriptions or refills due to cost, it’s safe to say. that many Americans are putting their health on hold.
Still, Yacoub and Bourgeois believe these are ways to effectively navigate prescription drug prices. For example, if possible, patients should avoid brand name drugs and stick to generics, as generic drug prices tend to be more stable due to competition, Yacoub says.
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“With brand name drugs, only one manufacturer makes that specific drug, but generic drugs have multiple manufacturers,” he says. “This leads to more competition and bargaining, so that generics remain priced stable or even decrease year after year.”
According to the Food and Drug Administration, generic drugs cost 80-85% less than brand name equivalents and are generally just as effective as their expensive counterparts. For example, the generic version of Adderall, an amphetamine salt combo, is available in the same strength and prescribed amounts, and treats attention deficit hyperactivity disorder for about $6 less per compressed.
However, some patients may not even realize that a generic option exists – and that’s where a local pharmacist can help. Bourgeois considers pharmacists to be the most accessible healthcare professionals in the United States. In fact, nearly nine out of 10 Americans live within five miles of their community pharmacy, as the CDC cites.
“As a pharmacist, I take great pride in helping my patients navigate their medication,” says Bourgeois. “If there is a problem with the cost of your medication, talk to your pharmacist because we can find the most cost effective solutions.
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Pharmacists can contact doctors to have a drug replaced with a more affordable option that is still covered by the patient’s insurance. Also, they can use platforms like SingleCare to search for patient discounts. Since SingleCare works with pharmacies to negotiate up to 80% off prescription prices, Bourgeois also advises patients to check out the platform themselves to see how affordable their medications are at their local pharmacy.
While these solutions can’t fix the pharmaceutical industry, they can help patients be better purchasers of healthcare. Yet some patients will find themselves unable to reduce rising costs, especially if they take specialty drugs, which treat complex chronic conditions like cancer and rheumatoid arthritis. For example, tretinoin, a drug to manage leukemia, costs nearly $7,000 a month. And without competition or regulation, manufacturers can raise those prices as they see fit.
Instead of government action, it will be up to pharmacists and healthcare solutions companies to at least educate patients about their options.
“If you’ve been taking a particular drug for years and the price of that drug doubles or triples, raise your concerns with your pharmacist,” says Bourgeois. “I encourage everyone to establish a relationship with their pharmacist and communicate today. We want to help you navigate your healthcare journey.