Getting Medicare patients a better deal on their medications

J.C., M.D. at Citizen Economist writes about an online service that allows Medicare patients to manage their prescription drugs:

This is a company that essentially allows the patient to create an account and manage their prescriptions drugs. It is a free site that provides online shopping comparison for prescription drugs. If you are not yet enrolled in Medicare Part D their site allows you to do so. If you already take medication you can find out if there are lower cost drugs such as generic brands as well as mail-order and retail pharmacy prices. They have created what they call a “Medicine Cabinet” to allow you to manage your prescriptions. You can even look up medical conditions and find out what treatments are available so you can initiate a discussion with your physician about treatments.

I try to help my patients get their meds as cheaply as possible by calling around to different pharmacies to check prices and often sending patients to different drug stores for this or that prescription to minimize the expense.  Sometimes the price differences are shocking.  For example, one pharmacy about half a mile from my office has generic fluticasone nasal spray for $70.  Another pharmacy two miles up the road has the same prescription for about $17.  However, the pharmacy that has the much pricier fluticasone spray also offers about half a dozen generic antibiotics for free.  I think it’s important for health care providers to know the lay of the land in their local area regarding prescription drug costs so they can direct their patients where the cost is lowest.

I like the idea of an online service that allows patients to comparison shop for medicine.  For such a large and important industry, I’m often surprised by how little true competition exists in health care.  Competition tends to drive quality up and prices down.  Health care could use more of it.

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