Thursday, October 14, 2010

Why I Hate the Drug Companies

This afternoon I crossed state lines in an attempt to buy prescription medication.  In the good old days (you know, like August) I could go down the street and get a prescription from my local pharmacy for $30 because I had prescription drug coverage through my insurance.  Now I am uninsured, but I still need medicines, this one particularly, because it's a steroid and you can just stop those puppies cold turkey.

So I called around last week to find out who had my prescriptions for the best prices.  Target was the winner with this one at $1011 for a one month refill.  That's right.  One month.  So, plan B.  I remembered I had a card from the drug company that would help me pay for this medication.  So I took it to Walgreens, where I was picking up another prescription at the time, and asked them to check it out.  Turns out the card is worth $500.  Woo hoo!  But it's good everywhere but Massachusetts, where I currently live.  sigh.  Time for a new plan.

So I take my prescription bottle with all the info on it and my magic card to a Target across the state line in New Hampshire.  No big deal.  It's not that far away, and my parents had errands they wanted to run in the area anyway.  I give the bottle and the card to the pharmacist, explain that I'd like to transfer my prescription to Target and get as many pills as the $500 card will allow.  Call me if there are any problems.

An hour later I'm sitting on a bench in the mall, waiting for my parents to do something or other, when I get a call from Target.  They're very sorry, but they can't get the card to work.  You must have primary insurance that will pay for at least part of the prescription, and then the card will cover the rest, up to $500.


After suppressing the urge to throw things, I asked her how much one week of the prescription would cost.  $232.26.  Fortunately, steroids require tapers, and one week of the prescription as written is actually three weeks of medication for me.  (You're supposed to take 1 pill a day for 6 weeks to safely taper.  It's going to be more like 30 days.)  So I gritted my teeth and bought the damn drugs.

And then I had a perfectly miserable time thinking of all the things I could have bought with that $232.26.

  • 1/3 of a month's medical insurance premium
  • a car payment on my beloved Toyota that I had to sell when I moved here
  • one of the super fancy Tivos that I was drooling over the other night
  • a month's supply of three other prescriptions put together
  • almost 5 months worth of cell phone service
  • 29 books for my Kindle
Clearly, there are other things I could have spent that money on.  Why was I in this predicament?  (Other than the fact that I have a chronic disease that I did not ask for and have no control over.)  Because a drug company gave out cards offering to pay for $500 worth of medication, medication that is criminally expensive to begin with, and then refused to allow people with out insurance, the ones who really need it, to use the card.  How fucked up is that?  When I had insurance the card wasn't worth the hassle.  Now that I desperately need the card, it won't work because I don't have insurance.  What this drug company has done is place advertisements in doctors' offices (which they aren't supposed to do, right?) and called them patient assistance cards.  They placed these cards knowing that they would never have to pay on the vast majority of them because for the vast majority of us they are worthless.


One good spot in all this mess-- I got a $10 Target card from the pharmacist.  I think she felt bad for me.  I'm going to save it just in case I need more of this medication.  It will almost buy me one pill.


  1. Anonymous1:34 AM

    Mom is playing a similar game right now Sweetie and it is ALL kinds of fucked up (in answer to your question). You can get through this, you can, you can. Just keep saying it, you definitely can.

  2. That sucks! I thought that's what those cards were FOR...all those smug commercials about "if you cannot afford your prescription, Pfizer can help". Public relations bullshit. Oh, this makes me mad! I had a kid my first year who desperately needed concerta for severe add, but the parents couldn't afford it and didn't qualify for any kind of aid, so he got one pill a week. on test day.

    hugs. it will get better.

    ps was the coupon not good in massachusetts b/c massachusetts knows they're crap anyway?

  3. Becky, I am SO sorry to hear you're going through all this crap. Let me know next time you're at that mall (I'm pretty sure I know which one it is, and I'm not that far away), I'll buy you a Starbucks.

    Lora, trust me, MA knows no such thing. They have their own system of required health care in MA, and they don't take kindly to interloping companies. They do the same thing with car insurance (kind of, it's complicated). It's an interesting state, which is one of the reasons I moved out.

  4. Anonymous1:13 PM

    I'm very sorry to hear about your predicament too. There are millions of people just like you. There is a solution though.

    There is a discount card for prescriptions, lab tests and diagnostic medical imaging. It works just like a coupon for any other good or service, but this applies to medical expenses.

    Go to this link:

    Print out the card and bring it to your pharmacist. All major retailers and most independent pharmacies use the card. Have them run the card numbers and see what your price is. It doesn't work for everything, but most of the time it saves a lot. You can register the card as your primary payer, and when you get insurance make them your secondary, and check to see who offers the best price.

    Good Luck!

  5. That's a hell of a lot of money for one prescription Becky. It's an awful thing to be in such a predicament that health care and prescriptions come at such a high price. Sorry to hear about your difficulties. All I can offer is a hug, and the wish that things will get better for you. :)

  6. Just for pure cussedness' sake, I went back and did one more comparison. It turns out, using what I found listed as the current price of gold and the quote from Walgreens which was the highest but also lined up exactly, by weight my prescription is 100 times more valuable than gold! Ain't that some shit.

  7. I'm sorry that you're going through's terrible. My husband and I were just talking about the drug companies in Canada as well...the prices are really crazy for some of the meds that I need but luckily I'm covered...I can't imagine the added stress not being covered must cause you...and cost your health.

  8. I really, really don't understand why prescriptions have to be so much and why insurance companies have to be such a pain. Like you, I remember a time when it wasn't like this. Sorry you have to go through all this.


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