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Rising drug costs force some patients to stop taking life-saving medication

By Megg Mueller on January 17th, 2011

If your prescription medication costs you $5,000 a month, and you lose your insurance, or worse, your job, what are you going to do? Three patients with cancer faced that question, and all three were forced to stop using the medication that had been credited with almost "curing" their cancer and keeping tumors at bay. Within months of stopping the medication, all three experienced a regrowth of the cancerous tumors and one even needed emergency surgery, according to a story on USAToday.com.

The patients had been on a trial program for a new drug, and when the trial ended, none could afford the $5,000 a month cost. While this is an extreme case, it illustrates the still-growing problem of the high cost of prescription drugs. According to a 2008 report issued by USA Today, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, four in 10 people taking prescription medicines say they have trouble affording their medications, and many people resort to cutting pills in half, or just not refilling prescriptions when they run out.

There are ways to get help, however, including a seemingly unlikely source: the drug manufacturers themselves. Some drug makers have programs in place that provide short-term assistance to qualified people who can't afford their prescriptions. If you have health insurance, check with your health insurance company for assistance on determining which medications are covered under your plan; there may be an alternative drug that your doctor can prescribe.

Are you having trouble paying for a prescription drug that can save or prolong your life? Before you decide to stop using the drug, talk with your doctor and find out about the financial assistance programs available to you.

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