DALLAS (BP)–Nearly half of all Americans take at least one maintenance prescription drug, but studies show that changes to lifestyle — especially diet and exercise — can improve some conditions to the point of eliminating the need for prescriptions. In addition, many Americans are not on the most cost-effective version of necessary drug therapies.
So before you go to the doctor for a prescription, ask the following five questions:
— Can I make lifestyle changes to improve my condition? According to the New England Journal of Medicine, almost three-quarters of the health care services in this country can be linked to preventable, chronic and lifestyle-related conditions like adult-onset diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol. Before reaching for that pill bottle, discuss lifestyle changes with your doctor. You could be improving your overall health and helping your budget in the process.
— Do I need this medication? Doctors sometimes prescribe antibiotics under pressure from their patients for things like the common cold or viral respiratory infections. These drugs do nothing to speed recovery but can help create drug-resistant strains of bacteria. Walking away from a doctor visit without a prescription may mean you and your doctor made the right choice.
— Are there alternatives to this medication? Drug companies spend millions to market their name-brand drugs, which are often costly. It’s wise to ask if there is a generic equivalent for your prescription. In addition, drug companies often slightly change the formula of a drug — like making it “extended release” — to keep it from “going generic.” The new version can be sold at the higher price but isn’t always that different from its generic equivalent. Ask your doctor if there’s a lower-cost alternative.
— Is this the least expensive way to take this drug? Since drugs are priced per pill, there could be a less expensive way to take your medication. For example, if you’re taking two 10mg tablets a day, it might save you money to switch to a single 20mg daily tablet. Since some drugs must be taken several times a day, be sure to ask your doctor if switching to a different regimen is right for you.
— How does my health plan cover this drug? Every health plan has a list of drugs included on the plan and how they are covered. Most commonly, you’ll pay a different percentage (co-insurance) or flat dollar amount (co-pay) for each category of drug (such as generic, preferred and non-preferred). Understanding where your drug falls in those categories can help you and your doctor discuss the lowest cost, most effective therapy for you.
Tamara Quintana is the director of the employee wellness program for GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.