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  • Writer's pictureMark Roberts

Drugs, Drugs, Drugs.

A prescription drug (also prescription medication, prescription medicine or prescription-only medication) is a pharmaceutical drug that is only permitted to be dispensed to those with a medical prescription. In contrast, OTC or over the counter drugs can be purchased without a prescription. The reason for this difference in controlled and non-controlled substances is the potential scope of abuse or misuse, from drug abuse by consumers and patients to practicing medicine without a license.

When used as prescribed by a doctor, prescription medicines can be helpful in treating many illnesses. Antibiotics are used to help treat infections. Stimulants are helpful in managing attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Central nervous system (CNS) depressants treat anxiety, panic, and sleep disorders. Opioids are prescribed to treat pain, coughing, and diarrhea. But when these drugs are misused, they can have serious consequences.

According to recent data, approximately 49% of individuals in the United States use at least one prescription medication monthly, making the affordability of prescription medications a key consideration for consumers. The Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) ensures that safe and effective drugs are available to improve the health of the people in the United States. The CDER performs an essential public health task by making sure that safe and effective drugs are available to improve the health of people in the United States.

As part of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), CDER regulates over-the-counter and prescription drugs, including biological therapeutics and generic drugs. This work covers more than just medicines. For example, fluoride toothpaste, antiperspirants, dandruff shampoos and sunscreens are all considered drugs. The FDA oversees drug safety and availability including information for consumers and health professionals on new drug warnings and other safety information, drug label changes, and shortages of medically necessary drug products.

A generic drug is a medication with the exact same active ingredient as the brand-name drug, is taken the same way and offers the same effect. They do not need to contain the same inactive ingredients as the name-brand product and they can only be sold after the brand-name drug's patent expires. There are only two main differences between generic and brand-name drugs:

  1. The inactive ingredients, such as flavoring or preservatives, may change.

  2. Generics generally cost less than brand-name versions.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration sets standards for generic drugs to ensure they work the same way and have the same benefits and risks as their brand-name counterparts. Generic drugs must match brand-name versions in the following ways:

  • They must have the same active ingredients

  • The dosage and strength must be identical

  • The overall quality, stability and safety must be the same

A generic drug must be “bioequivalent” to the brand-name product, meaning they have to be chemically similar. A recent study that compared generics to brand-name drugs found on average only a 3.5% difference in absorption into the body. Besides switching to a generic, here are a few ways you may be able to cut costs on your prescription:

  • Ask for a 90-day supply at your pharmacy: This may help lower your copay, which may add up to significant savings.

  • Try mail-order: Check with your insurance policy to see if you have a lower copayment if you get your prescription through the mail.

  • Pick a pharmacy in your plan’s preferred network: Make sure the pharmacy you visit is in your plan’s network before getting a refill.

  • Sign up for a prescription discount program: These programs work directly with drug manufacturers to help keep costs down for patients.

  • Search for non-profit organizations to help lower costs: These organizations may help you find assistance programs to lower the cost of your prescription.

  • Pharmaceutical companies can help: Some companies sponsor assistance programs to help cover prescription costs for low-income individuals or people with disabilities.

Navigating the price of prescription drugs can be challenging, but remember:

  • Never cut pills.

  • Never skip a dose.

  • Never stop taking your medication without speaking with your prescriber first.

Most people who take prescriptions have drug coverage through insurance. According to HHS (US Department of Health and Human Sciences), about 82% of persons under 65 years had prescription drug insurance in 2019. The number of drugs provided or prescribed by physicians that year: 1.0 billion. The number of drugs prescribed through hospital emergency rooms: 354 million. People without prescription drug insurance may not be able to afford the medicines they need. They’re also more likely to skip or reduce doses — or to use alternative therapies to try to save money.

For senior adults over 65 and those on Medicare and/or Medicaid, the cost of certain prescriptions can get expensive. A Medicare Part D plan can help with this expense in many cases. However, seniors still struggle with how to leverage drug costs with other living expenses. Medicare Part D is a specific type of private, government-regulated prescription drug plan that works with your Medicare coverage. You’re eligible to enroll in a Part D plan if you receive Medicare upon turning 65. You’re also able to enroll if you sign up for Medicare due to a disability. If you delay getting Part D coverage for a while because you already had an employee or union group health plan that covered prescription drugs, you can apply for Part D when your existing coverage ends.

Prescription discount cards, most of which are available at no cost, offer savings to patients who may lack insurance or adequate coverage for their brand or generic medication costs. Numerous programs that provide such cost savings are available, and these cards can be used at many pharmacies across the U.S. to help patients manage their prescription expenses and to address potential adherence issues related to financial barriers.

If you don’t have health insurance or your insurance doesn’t cover your medications, a prescription discount card can be a money-saver, giving you access to discounts and savings at pharmacies across the U.S. Visit my website for a selection of several prescription discount cards from which to choose:

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