Friday Rant: Sourcing Prescription Meds — A Canine Perspective

For anyone in the U.S. with a chronic medical condition or disease, the cost of prescription medications can be a debilitating monthly expense. Unless, of course, one has prescription coverage as part of their health insurance plan. And even then, co-payments and deductibles can add up significantly. But unless one is without prescription coverage, you may be unaware of how wildly prescription drug prices fluctuate between pharmacies. Observe the case of Butchy, a year old boxer with epilepsy.

Butchy was given to an elderly couple, neighbors of mine, as a puppy after their loyal canine companion of 13 years passed away. His behavior was a bit odd -- compared with my own boxer, Annie -- but none-the-less, his retired owners grew to adore him in short order. At about four months, Butchy had his first seizure and was referred to a veterinary neurologist who has since been trying to establish the correct cocktail of medications to alleviate his disease. Upon dispensing Butchy's latest script, the vet said "you may want to shop this around, it's rather expensive."

Expensive indeed. Four local chain pharmacies priced a month's supply at between $490 and $650. Faced with how to keep their beloved pet on an income of social security and a small pension, my neighbors began sourcing in earnest. The vet had not checked the "okay to substitute with generic brand" box and it wasn't until Butchy's owners spoke with a pharmacist at Costco that they learned one was available. Costco's branded price was a 100 bucks less than other pharmacies and they went on to suggest a generic substitute that would be less than one tenth the price at $36.00/month.

Now I'm not in a position to claim that Costco should be everyone's go-to source for prescription meds, but the outcome of Butchy's owners' diligence certainly paid off in more ways than one after the vet approved the generic substitute. Furthermore, if everyone would bother to ascertain the real cost of prescription meds to their insurance providers, it could ultimately reduce the cost of healthcare insurance premiums. And wouldn't insurance carriers be smart to provide an incentive to do so as well.

Dogs historically earned their keep as mousers, herders, watch dogs, hunters and even catch control on fishing boats. It would seem that we can now add "sourcing stimulus" to the role of man's best friend.

- William Busch

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