health care spendingMost of us don’t think twice when we go to our doctor and receive a prescription. We simply fill the prescription and trust that it’s the best medication available for our illness. But did you know that big drug companies play a huge role in determining which medications are available?
In a USA Today article, it was reported that millions of dollars have been spent by drug companies to lobby congress in Washington. What does this mean to you? It means drug companies are going to push for coverage for medications that increase their bottom line – and drain your wallet!
Higher Cost Doesn’t Equal Better Results
By lobbying Washington, drug companies are able to ward off Medicare cuts to their costly medications and discourage lawmakers from passing a Medicare policy that promotes using less expensive drugs. Drug companies also have a lot of influence on the doctors who prescribe medications. I’m sure you’ve seen drug reps visit your physicians’ office – usually leaving free samples and offering incentives such as dinners, trips, and other enticing offers.
One particular drug company lobbied Washington for an expensive medication that treats macular degeneration – Lucentis. This medication costs $2,000 per injection, versus only $50 for Avastin, which is another drug to treat the same condition. Studies showed that the $50 medication was just as effective as the $2,000 medication.
When new medications come on the market, they’re patented for a certain period of time. During this time, other drug companies cannot offer generic forms of the medication. This is one reason certain drugs, especially new drugs, are so costly. Once the patent expires, other drug companies may step in and offer the medication in a generic form – driving down the cost. This was the case for the popular cholesterol drug, Lipitor.
How to Protect Yourself From Costly Prescriptions
No doubt there are times when only one particular medication will do the job. But most of the time less expensive medications, or generics, are likely available. They only way to know is to ask! When you’re given a prescription, don’t be afraid to ask your physician about the cost. And feel free to request a less expensive medication if it’s available – after all, it’s your money!
What has your experience been with high-dollar prescriptions? Were you able to request a less expensive alternative to save money? What is your advice to other readers?

Wiley Long is founder and president of Medigap Advisors, and is passionate about helping people navigate the confusing waters of Medicare. He is the author of The Medicare Playbook: Designing Your Successful Health Coverage Strategy, a clear and simple explanation so you can make the most of your Medicare coverage.