What is being done about high prescription costs?
March 24, 2006 1:09 PM   Subscribe

The high costs of prescription drugs is often reported in the media, but what is currently being done about it?

Are there any plans currently in effect? Are there any congressmen lobbying for action to be taken, if so who? I'm looking for either really general solutions to the problem, or specific actions people are taking towards a solution.
posted by monsta coty scott to Health & Fitness (12 answers total)
The President twisted some arms (google Nick Smith) and passed Medicare D, which gives lots more taxpayer money to the big drug companies, and forbids the government from bargaining for bulk-purchase discounts.
posted by orthogonality at 1:14 PM on March 24, 2006

The free market will take care of it. After all prices will only increase to the point that the market will bear.
posted by JJ86 at 1:22 PM on March 24, 2006

What if the market is propped up by gov't subsidies though?
posted by rschroed at 1:24 PM on March 24, 2006

What's being done about it is that Congress is specifically forbidding Medicare from bargaining with the drug companies. Additionally, Congress is cracking down on drug importation from Canada and other locations. So, what's being done is that Congress is increasing the price of drugs as much as it can without actually passing a law setting minimum drug prices for you to pay.

Is this not what you were looking for?
posted by jellicle at 1:35 PM on March 24, 2006

The "market" cannot help prescription drug prices since demand is completely inflexible.

If you need Drug X to stay alive, hypothetically the drug company could charge you a million dollars and you'd have to pay. It's not like steak where you can decide to eat hamburgers until the price goes down.

"I don't feel like paying $6,000/pill for my heart meds, so I'm not going to buy them this wee-urk" [*thump*]
posted by unixrat at 1:44 PM on March 24, 2006

The "market" cannot help prescription drug prices since demand is completely inflexible.

Only somewhat true. On a micro scale, your personal demand is inflexible. On a macro scale, both supply and demand are completely flexible. Provided that there is true market competitiveness, all costs everywhere fall naturally, especially with drugs, as newer, more effective drugs are developed, and as patents on drugs expire, allowing low-cost generics to flood the market. This is Adam Smith 101.

That being said, actually getting true market competitiveness in a world of lobbyists and dipshit governance is another thing entirely. This is Poli Sci 101. ;-)
posted by frogan at 2:03 PM on March 24, 2006

Remember also, the "free market" for prescription drugs in the US is screwed skewed by the presence of a large number of third-party payors. Most people who have health insurance have no conception of the actual cost of the drugs they take; they only see deductibles and co-payments. It is, unfortunately, those without health insurance or drug coverage who are truly screwed in this equation.

As an aside, my partner is disabled and relies on both Medicare and Medicaid. He went on Medicare Part D this year. So far, it's been a blessing, a vast improvement on the previous patchwork of state programs, local charities, and drug-company charities which had provided his drugs. There is so much less aggravation, hassle, paperwork, having to get drugs from different pharmacies that participate in different programs, etc, etc. There are drugs that would cost $3000 to $4000 monthly if he had to pay for them.
posted by Robert Angelo at 2:08 PM on March 24, 2006

There are a few workarounds. A physician might hand off samples of the same medication to a patient every time he visits the office, and then schedule the patient for an office visit every month, knowing that the visit will be reimbursed. Or a doctor might write a prescription for 100 mg tablets, then instruct the patient to split them in half as a normal dose; result: 50% discount. (This is assuming prescription drug plan requires identical copay for "30 day supply" no matter what the dosage. Patient simply refills half as often.)

But these are small-time workarounds. What will eventually happen? Sooner or later, voters will put so much pressure on Congress for a single-payer medical plan that Congress will dare to buck the insurance and drug lobbies. And that single-payer plan will have so much clout that it will knock down prescription prices enormously. This may come at a cost of limiting liability to drug companies for serious side effects and (perhaps) seriously discouraging drug advertising and promotion through regulation of marketing.
posted by La Cieca at 2:13 PM on March 24, 2006

Some of us just do without.

Thank God those days seem to be over for me. But there are tons of people out there who are just flat out of luck....HOWEVER there are programs run my the pharm companies that get free meds to people who are lower income, and it's worth checking out.
posted by konolia at 2:19 PM on March 24, 2006

A quick survey of women's magazines at the grocery check-out stand will tell you that middle America is turning back to home remedies, exercise, stress reduction, nutrition and other alternatives in response to this situation.

I've been interested in alternative medicine all my life and have just noticed increased attention on the subject in major women's magazines in the last 6 months.

I think alternatives could be used for about 80% of perscription drugs.

I've thought that the one hold out would be insulin. People will always need insulin. But I saw and actually bought a magazine about preventing Diabetes. (Outsmart Diabetes by Prevention magazine) The magazine had some great articles, based on scientific research.

And then there's Tom Cruise and Scientology doing their best to get people off physchiatric drugs. I think better nutrition and excercise would help a lot of the mentally ill get off the prozac. But it's more complicated than that. And you really can't experiment when you have post partum depression like you can experiment with using vinegar for your heartburn so you don't have to spend 100$ a month on Nexium.

But I think studies are showing that good talking therapy is as effective as drugs for a lot of mental problems.
posted by 9000.68 at 2:33 PM on March 24, 2006

What's happening? Pharmaceutical companies are making more an more money, and paying more an more to lobbiests and politicians. Things are going very well for everyone. Except the consumer.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 3:50 PM on March 24, 2006

Um, I would be a little iffy about taking vinegar for heartburn. That burning you feel is stomach acid, eh? riding up your esophagus, neh? I seem to remember from high-school chemistry, well, that another name for vinegar is acetic acid. So, um, drinking an acid would prolly not help with acid reflux.

I'll second that preventing diabetes, nod, tho. Diet and exercise. This is a lifestyle disease, folks (talking about Type II here) and you can fight lifestyle with (a different) lifestyle.

As always, ask your doctor, neh?
posted by gilgul at 11:21 PM on March 24, 2006

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