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The rising cost of prescription medication has become a frequently mentioned reason for noncompliance to treatment plans . The manufacturer to consumer chain is interlocked with rising cost. A drug mark up of 5000% will get our attention but it is not uncommon to see significant mark ups as rising costs are passed on to the consumer. A recent study in the US found some hospitals marked up medication AT LEAST 700%- so a drug that cost the hospital $1 to purchase would cost the patient $700. Brand and patented medications are more expensive than generic counterparts. Although just as effective, the profit margin for generic medication is not as wide. Designer and specialty drugs such as those used to treat cancer, immunologic diseases and hepatitis C are some of the most expensive medications on the market.

They also have the widest profit margins . With such profit margins, pharmaceutical companies are incentivized to develop drugs that treat fewer people. Specialty drugs are expensive and if you have a chronic, life threatening illness- you will pay. Brand medications without a generic equivalent leave consumers no option.
The drug supply chain starts with the pharmaceutical manufacturer. Drugs are then purchased by the wholesaler . Pharmacies then buy from the wholesaler. Uninsured patients may then purchase directly from the pharmacy at its established price. If a patient is enrolled with an insurance company or government plan that uses a pharmacy benefit manager (PBM )to handle this process, he/she will pay a copay – usually a small percentage of the imperceptible total cost of the drug- as part of this health plan. The PBM will pay the balance to pharmacy. Price markups along this chain to cover expenses and profit are significant.


Generic drugs are ,for the most part, just as effective as brand name meds and much cheaper. Older drugs are often less expensive than their newer counterparts so always ask your doctor about cost and options. You can lower your cost with Manufacturer coupons found online. Also, retail stores have extensive lists of commonly prescribed drugs – mostly generic- that sell at discounted prices. A 30 day supply of metformin ( a common drug used to treat diabetes) can cost $4 for a 30 day supply, $10 for a 90 day supply. I often advise insured patients to compare copays with these retail drug lists as often times just buying without using the insurance plan saves money.
In the US, common retail locations include Walmart, Target, local supermarkets. Another option: A number of companies now provide discount cards free of charge. These companies also provide a platform for you to locate the lowest cost of a drug in your area as prices do tend to vary. See the link below to begin your search for affordable medication.

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