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Take Care with Your Health Care

Mistake #2


Tightening your budget by discontinuing or skipping doses of medications your doctor has prescribed to control chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, abnormal glucose levels, or high cholesterol, etc.  The effects of skipping or reducing doses of your meds may seem to make no immediate difference in your activities of daily living.  You might think you feel fine, so why keep wasting money on medicine?


Don’t ignore the importance and value of your routine medications.  Many of your routine medications are treating those “silent” diseases we mentioned above.  High cholesterol, for example, may not cause any symptoms you can detect in the short term -- it doesn’t cause you to have pain, or nausea, or diarrhea -- but the long-term consequences on your heart and blood vessels of untreated high cholesterol can lead to heart attack, stroke, or even sudden cardiac death.


We recommend that you never skip or discontinue a medication without consulting the physician who prescribed it.   Some medications are not effective at all in reduced doses.   Other medications cannot be stopped abruptly … you need to be “weaned” from them in a gradual fashion to reduce the chance of serious side effects.  



And on the subject of "meds" ... let us share some explanation about varying costs certain medicines and generics.  Why aren’t all medications on the “$4.00 list”?


First of all, we DO take the high cost of medications seriously.  Whenever possible, we prescribe the generic (as opposed to brand name) form of a drug.  Using a generic form of a medicine is similar to buying the house brand of a product (such as corn flakes) at the grocery store, rather than the nationally-advertised brand.  The product is virtually the same, sometimes even produced by the same manufacturer, but without fancy packaging or television advertising that boosts its cost.  


What often confuses patients, however, is that sometimes an exact generic equivalent does not exist for a medication.  This is often the case with newer medications, whose patent has not yet expired.  Your pharmacist or insurance plan may suggest a lower-cost alternative to the medication you take, but keep in mind that this alternative drug is NOT always the equivalent of the brand-name medication.  Often, it is simply a medication in the same class of drug.  Because it has a different chemical formulation from your medication, it may not work as effectively, and it may cause unpleasant or even dangerous side effects that you didn’t have on the original medication.


Some expensive medications require prior authorization by your insurance plan.  This is almost always a difficult, frustrating and time-consuming task for us and for our staff, and we ask your patience as we make our way through the process.  Usually, we are required to prove that you have already tried a less-costly alternative that has not been effective for you or has caused intolerable side effects.  Occasionally, we are able to cite another medical condition you have that would make it dangerous for you to take an alternative medication.  Simply preferring the name brand is not sufficient reason to receive prior authorization from insurance plans.   


If we exhaust our prior authorization efforts without success, and we must change your medicine, we may need to see you in the office more frequently or perform blood tests to monitor how well the new medication is working and to ensure that it is right for you.  

We are mindful of the cost of medications, and we look for low cost alternatives for our patients … but never at the risk of compromising the quality of their treatment.  While medicines may seem costly, their cost is minimal when compared to the cost of expensive hospitalization or surgery, or to the cost of time off work.  Understanding and maintaining your medication regimen as prescribed is a good way to avoid more expensive treatment costs down the road.

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