patient safety

Your Pharmacist- Bound and Gagged

During the past 10 years or more, the costs of prescription drugs seem to have taken on an enlarging life of their own.  Gone are the days of no co-pay. Today even co-pays seem outrageous, yet pharmaceutical drug companies keep raising their prices and we, the patients, are responsible for their bazillion dollar paychecks, whether or not we can afford the drugs we need.

I’ll confess that I have a totally unbalanced sense of awe and loathing for Big Pharma (the moniker given to the whole of large drug companies.)  While on the one hand, I appreciate and applaud the “miracle” drugs some have developed over time, I can’t abide their sales practices, and their pretension that they are trying to help patients. Their goal is only to make money. If they happen to help a patient or two, that’s a pleasant surprise. Sad but true.

As a result, when I came upon this article from the AP, I couldn’t wait to share it with you because it can make a true difference for patients, and it gets around their gag rules.

Gag Rules?

Yes – gag rules.  It turns out, according to the article, that drug benefits companies force pharmacies – all of them from big-box type Walgreens, CVS, Rite-Aid or others… to your small, corner pharmacy – to refrain from telling you ways you can save money when you purchase your prescription drugs.

Example:  you need to pick up your prescription for, say, Lipitor. Your co-pay means you’ll pay $50 because it’s a brand name drug.  Your pharmacist is not allowed to tell you, because of the gag rules, that if you purchase it with cash, it will cost you only $25.

Now – a bit of a disclaimer – not all pharmacies are beholden to gag rules with all benefits companies (called pharmacy benefits managers).  But don’t worry about that – you don’t need to track them.

You can take advantage of this information in one simple way:

Always ask your pharmacist how much it would cost you to purchase your prescription with cash.  That doesn’t commit you to paying cash – it’s simply an information-gathering question. 

Save even more money by shopping around.  Call several pharmacies to ask them both how much a prescription will cost with your co-pay, and how much it will cost in cash. Then make your choice. (If you have to get your doctor to send you prescription to a different pharmacy, just call and ask. If he or she hesitates or won’t do it, then it’s time to find a new doctor.)

Pharmacists are FOPs – friends of patients – in all the very best ways. They hate these gag rules and they are happy to help you pay the least for your prescription, so by all means – take advantage of this advice! You’ll be happier and they will be, too.

And if you aren’t sure you’re doing this the right way, then it’s time to reach out to a Professional Patient Advocate to help you


The Folly Of Driving to the ER

Hugh, a gentleman of about 68 years, lived alone. Hugh wasn’t feeling well. It was just a general feeling that something – who knows what? – just wasn’t right.

After a short while, Hugh walked over to see Phil, his next door neighbor. Phil agreed to drive Hugh to the Emergency Room.

It took them about 30 minutes to get there. Hugh signed in, and together he and Phil sat down in the waiting room. Within 15 minutes, Hugh keeled over, out of his chair, and onto the floor. He had “coded.” 

Nurses and doctors immediately rushed over with the “crash cart” to jump start Hugh’s heart; they brought him back from the brink of death. He was immediately admitted to the hospital and had surgery that afternoon…

But Hugh died a few days later, never having regained consciousness from the attack he had suffered in the ER.

Hugh was my friend. He was my neighbor. He left behind his wonderful dog, his adult children (who all lived out of town and we didn’t know them), and many of us who just adored him.

Now we are all angry at Phil.

You might wonder why we would be angry at Phil. Afterall, Hugh asked Phil to drive him to the ER. What a neighborly thing to do – right?

No. Wrong. Absolutely WRONG!

The thing is – Phil has had two heart attacks himself. He should have known better than to drive Hugh to the hospital himself. He should have insisted on dialing 9-1-1.  And that is why we are angry at Phil.

When you, or someone you care about has odd symptoms that could involve something life-threatening, never drive them to the ER yourself.

Let’s suppose Phil had insisted on dialing 9-1-1.  Let’s even suppose Hugh had dialed 9-1-1 himself.  The EMTs would have arrived very quickly, and realized immediately that Hugh was in the midst of a heart attack, or cardiac arrest. They would have treated him immediately, stabilized him, and then transported him to the hospital. There would not have been that delay in getting treatment which was then too little too late. It’s entirely possible Hugh would have survived and we would all still have our friend among us.

I know… you’re thinking “Yeah, but what if it’s nothing?  How embarrassing and possibly expensive that would be!”

That’s very true. That’s your choice. Let it be “nothing” and reluctantly pay the bill.  Or find out it was something – and be happy to live long enough to pay the bill.

I know which one I would choose! Both those possibilities are better than not surviving at all.

There are so many people, especially those of us who are a little older, who know whether we are at risk to suffer a heart problem, or a stroke, or some sort of episode that can ride that line between life and death. Every one of us needs to talk to our loved ones and neighbors to be sure they know to dial 9-1-1.

If you aren’t sure if you are one of those folks, who needs to know the difference,  I won’t make decisions for you; instead I will help you walk through scenarios yourself so your friends or loved ones will know what to do – or so you will know what to do for them.

Don’t risk death!  Dial 9-1-1. The life you save may be your loved one’s – or your own.

Posted by: AdvoConnection