Her Voz

Prescription Drugs: Take Two and Call me in the Morning.

My mom laid in bed for two months with an illness that required her to be hospitalized this past summer. She’s much healthier and the sad days are over, so I don’t mind touching briefly upon this tragedy.

I remember going to the pharmacy to fill her eight–page prescription list, which was given to me by her doctors. Waiting and hoping they could fill all eight of them—the same day, I was shocked when the clerk told me the total would be $700. That was about $650.00 more than what I had expected! Just for giggles I inquired how much the insurance had paid. She said over $5,000 dollars. “Wow is that how much medicine costs these days,” I questioned. Prescription costs was something completely out of my realm of thought before this summer.

Well imagine my interest when I stumbled upon NPR’s article, “Selling Sickness: How Drug Ads Changed Health Care.” Author and Journalist Alex Spiegel stated, “Prescription drug spending is the third most expensive cost in our health care system. And spending seems to grow larger every year… In a decade and a half, the use of prescription medication went up 71 percent. This has added about $180 billion to our medical spending.”

“Well, it isn’t me being cheap! I am not selfishly thinking how I reluctantly just spent $700 on my mom and postponing my trip to the Dominican Republic,” I thought.

But wait why? The answer lies in the advertising —the revolutionary change that medical advertisers rejoice over.

Joe Davis and William Castagnoli had experimentally changed markets for a medicine called Seldane , which changed the way medical advertising targeted medicine users. Describing the success received by targeting the patients, who could demand specific drugs—instead of targeting doctors, Joe stated, “Our goal was maybe to get this drug up to $100 million in sales. But we went through $100 million,” Davis says. “And we said, ‘Holy smokes.’ And then it went through $300 million. Then $400 million. Then $500 million. $600 [million]! It was unbelievable. We were flabbergasted. And eventually it went to $800 million.”

So how do we—the consumers—keep the costs down? According to the October 8th News Report on Pharmaceutical Care Management Association’s (PCMA) Web site, here are three helpful tips that could work for you, “Greater use of mail-service pharmacies, generic medications, and a thorough medication review with a physician to determine other available prescription drug options .”

I hope it works, for my pockets and my mom’s health! (Report back later.)