With the continuously rising cost of prescription drugs, patients are forced to take matters into their own hands. They are making choices that their doctors would advise against, and their health is suffering because of it.
Dr. Sameer Awsare, an internist and executive with the Permanente Medical Group, gave the example that one of his patients ended up in the emergency room after making one such choice. As she could only afford enough of her congestive heart failure medicine to take it every other day, this affected her so much that she required medical attention to undo the damage. Now, not only can this patient not afford her daily medication, but her visit to the emergency room created an additional cost for her to pay.
Other patients are looking to purchase drugs overseas, which are often considered unsafe and lacking in regulation required of drugs from the United States. It is risky, at best, to take the chance and not one that doctors would recommend in good conscience.
These decisions place doctors in a difficult position, as they cannot force their patients to purchase medicine that they prescribe, but they also cannot avoid prescribing the medicine in the first place if there is no viable alternative. Seeing firsthand how the drug prices are affecting their patients’ lives is extremely scarring, and yet, they are powerless to help.
The hope among doctors and patients alike is that the Trump administration’s newest healthcare initiative “American Patients First” will create some relief, though their focus has primarily been on handling the opioid epidemic. Still, some legislators are paying close attention to the issue of rising drug prices, like Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass). Senator Warren pushed hard to ensure that President Trump’s promise of “massive” drug price drops would become a reality, but so far, it is too early to tell if Congress will approve.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), regardless, has finally released its plan to help allow generic brands to enter the drug markets. In the past, it has not been the traditional role of the FDA to advocate for more diversity within the drug market, but people are taking notice of the commissioner’s candor. Dr. Dora Hughes of Sidley Austin LLP noted that Commissioner Scott Gottlieb’s vocality is particularly surprising, as Republican-led administrations tend to relax policies for big businesses.
With any luck, this increase in competition will lead to a significant price drop and allow for patients to once more receive the medication they require on a daily basis.