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'Shop around' Rising cost of prescribed medications hits Georgians

A year's supply for one insulin medication increased from almost $3,000 to $5,000 dollars.

GEORGIA, USA — It seems like everything is going up these days, including prescription medications. According to a 2021 Gallup poll, 18 million Americans cannot pay for their prescribed medications. 

Family practitioner nurse at Macon Volunteer Clinic, Justin Wolfe, says you can pay for your medication without rationing it.

"One of the recommendations I give all my patients is to shop around. Not everybody offers the same price for medication, and sometimes you can find your particular medication at a reduced cost or cheaper cost at some other pharmacy than what you're used to dealing with," Wolfe said. "Some of my patients use multiple pharmacies if they're close by in proximity to each other."

Wolfe helps his patients determine where they can find an affordable prescribed medication.

"We do have access to patient assistance programs through manufacturers. We actually have been able to provide $500,000 inpatient assistance for medications in this year alone."

Wolfe has also heard of patients rationing their insulin if they have diabetes. He says that's a serious health concern and something in the healthcare industry needs to change.

"I would love to see insulin prices drop and more assistance programs be available to patients like what we have here at Macon Volunteer Clinic," Wolfe said.

Antonio Ciaccia is the CEO of 46brooklyn Research. A non-profit that looks at drug pricing data. He believes the U.S. prescription drug supply chain is to blame.

"You have a drug manufacturer that sells a drug to a drug wholesaler. Just think of them as kind of the warehouse for all of the medicines that pharmacies buy. Pharmacies buy the drugs from the wholesalers, and then they dispense them to the patients." Ciaccia said.

In Georgia, over one million people have diabetes or pre-diabetes. So a year's supply of Lantus, the name brand insulin that treats diabetes, increased from almost $3,000 to $5,000. Ciaccia says the price is high, and it should be about $35 to $40 a unit.

"That disconnect represents an opportunity for the entire prescription drug supply chain to capture the benefits of that hidden fluff in the middle," Ciaccia said.

Wolfe says supply and demand are also part of the reason for the upwards price. However, he does recommend his patients who can't pay the large amount.

"Good Rx, that's very good. They offer discount coupons where you can get reduced costs if you pay out of pocket. And then again, if it is a newer medication, most manufacturers do have a manufacturers assistance program."

The Macon Volunteer clinic provides medical services to those who make below a certain income and do not have health insurance. You can visit their website to see if you qualify.

Along with Macon Volunteer Clinic, United Way of Central Georgia helps negotiate prescription discounts through their SingleCare prescription savings card.

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