Paying even a nickel more for a gallon of gas seems foolish. We may even drive across town to find the cheapest price. Yet many of us don’t use the same shopping savvy with prescription drugs. In fact, millions of dollars are wasted among Wellmark members each year from choosing costly brand name drugs instead of inexpensive generic medications.
“Brand name prescription drugs are a leading driver of high health care costs,” says Matt Hosford, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield pharmacy director. “The good news is that, in many cases, generic medications exist at only a fraction of the cost of their brand name counterparts.”
“There are times when no generic alternative exists for a certain health condition. But for most of us, it comes down to this: If two drugs work the same, and are equally effective, would you rather pay $12 or $150?”
While 75 percent of Wellmark members’ prescriptions are filled with generic medications, the remaining 25 percent make up 75 percent of the cost of all medications. And those costs add up — on average, about 15 cents of every premium dollar is used to pay for prescription drugs.
Hosford says many people consider their copayment — the amount they pay out of pocket for their prescription — as the actual cost of the drug. However, while the copayment may be $20, $30 or even $50, the actual cost of the drug is much higher. (NOTE: Out-of-pocket costs may be higher for people with coinsurance, who pay a percentage of the full price of their prescriptions.)
If you have high cholesterol, you might be like 30 million other Americans who walk out of their doctor’s office with a prescription for a statin — a cholesterol-reducing drug such as Lipitor, Crestor or Zocor. Statins block a liver enzyme that helps create cholesterol.
Statins work wonders for many. The average person using a statin will see his or her “bad” cholesterol (LDL) drop between 20 and 60 percent in just one month.
Statins have become this country’s — and Wellmark members’ — most widely prescribed drug. Typically, the drugs achieve results with few side effects.
However, while these drugs are effective, they do not prevent heart attacks. “Many people believe that statins are a magic bullet — that a prescription for a statin will protect them from heart disease or a heart attack,” says Hosford.
Even if a statin lowers your “bad” cholesterol, heart disease can still develop. “Statins can help protect against a heart attack in an otherwise healthy individual,” says Hosford. “But no pill is a substitute for a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, losing weight, managing diabetes and quitting smoking.”
Want to learn more about your pharmacy benefits? Visit Wellmark.com and register for myWellmark for easy access to personalized pharmacy information.