By Mary Johnson, editor
Recently we asked for your stories and comments on how rising prescription drug costs impact you. The following story illustrates new administrative efforts by Medicare to “educate” beneficiaries about their options for less expensive prescription meds, by sending out letters listing lower cost medications. The question we need to ask our lawmakers is why is this necessary? Does the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) believe we are impoverishing ourselves by using more expensive drugs if a less expensive alternative was effective, to begin with? Unfortunately, sometimes the older, less expensive drugs don’t work as well, and with metastatic cancer drugs, quality of life can be at stake. Our sincere thank you to Janice S. a retiree living in Illinois, for sharing the following.
I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. My doctor first prescribed Femara. Within a few weeks, I knew I was not going to be able to continue with this medication because I was experiencing severe bone and joint pain. My doctor then chose Aromasin. This was obviously the drug for me.
That was almost 10 years ago. Today my cancer is in remission. I seem to have no side effects and the lesions on my liver have faded and seem to be healed over. I had every reason to believe that Aromasin was the medication I would take for the rest of my life. I am now 82.
NOT TRUE. Pfizer has raised the price far too high for seniors on Medicare and living on a fixed income. Prior to the increase, I was paying $114.00 for a 3-month supply, or $456.00 a year. A few days ago I discovered the new price for this year was $478.80 for a 3- month supply or $1,915.20 annually.
Medicare sent a letter to those of us using this medication suggesting that I change to a different med and included two possible suggestions, one of which is a generic of the first medication prescribed ten years ago. It cost only a few dollars.
That may be okay for some, but I have had such great success. Why change to something else and put myself through all those fears again? My solution right now is to change where I purchase the medication. Canada, here I come and the devil with Medicare.
Medicare is trying to nudge people towards using less expensive older drugs, as this story describes. Most of us jump at the chance to lower our drug costs whenever we can, but sometimes the alternative may not work as well. If this happens to you, I strongly suggest that you take the letter from Medicare and show it to your doctor. I’m willing to bet your doctor won’t be pleased to see Medicare “prescribing” other drugs for his or her patients.
If you experience a steep rapid price increase like this, where the drug doubles or quadruples as it did for Janice, first check with your drug plan to learn whether the drug is still covered by your plan. You can double check the price you have been quoted by using the Medicare drug plan finder at www.Medicare.gov. If the drug is covered and the price has increased like this example, please contact your Members of Congress, starting with your Representative in the House and share details about the cost increase of your drug. Members of the House have announced hearings in coming weeks to investigate this sort of price gouging and your Representative will be interested in hearing your story.
The Senior Citizens League is sharing these stories with Members of Congress as well. If you would like to share your story you may do so here.