Of all the news coming from Washington D.C. in recent weeks, none may affect you more than the good news coming today--lowering the price of drugs. President Trump will speak on the topic extensively, revealing his vision for lowering drug prices, and his specific actions to do so. These specific actions will not require the approval of Congress, meaning changes are in sight, whether or not Congress approves.

What to Expect

Many of the changes that are soon to occur, will happen on the part of manufacturer's, insurers, and pharmacy benefit managers. Consumers will not be making the changes or playing a part in negotiations, but it is the American people who will see the changes.

Changes to Medicare and Medicaid

Changes seen in the proposed 2019 budget point to changes in Medicaid and Medicare coverage. Presently, the Medicaid drug rebate program allows insurers to cover certain drugs currently under rebate, pocketing the profits. Instead of saving consumers money, the rebate program allows insurers to gain a profit, and allow manufacturers to raise prices. Giving states the power to choose which drugs are covered would lower prices, something that the state of Maine implemented in 2003.

In addition to the expected lower prices, there will be changes that will affect senior citizens. Changes to the Medicare Part D program will mean not only lower prices to the insured, but will also require that insurers and pharmacy benefit managers share the discounts with the insured. Medicare Part B will see changes that will adjust the cost of in-office drug administration, as well as to provide incentives for hospitals that provide charity care.

Changes to Manufacturing and Marketing

A large part of the problem is the lack of available generic drugs, and the Food & Drug Administration is working to correct it. Presently, manufacturers stand to benefit from less available generic drugs, bio-similars, and rival brands from entering the market. In order to provide more options to consumers, the FDA has cleared a backlog of approvals for generic drugs and are actively looking for ways the rules are being used to close the market on generic drugs. For example, branded companies may deliberately block a generic company from accessing enough testing samples of the originator drug.

Changes to Trade Policy

Changes like the ones the American people need do not happen over night. President Trump's economic advisers see a need for change in trade policy, whereas health policy experts disagree. The problem is that the U.S. spends most of the money and does most of the work for drug research, innovation, and manufacturing from which the rest of the world benefits. Limiting the under-pricing of drugs both domestically and in foreign counties will bring prices down by encouraging innovation. President Trump is expected to speak more on this topic during his address, likely to expound upon the report released from the White House in February of this year.

One thing is certain--changes need to be made--but they cannot happen overnight. The circumstances that have allowed the rising drug prices in America happened over decades, and now the federal government has a plan to correct it. Both Democrats and Republicans are weighing in, but it's the American people themselves that stand to gain or lose as the cost of health continues to rise.

 

Opioid use in the United States is at an all-time high, and opioid related deaths are the same. 1 out of 5 patients are prescribed opioid pain relievers in a doctor's office, according to prescribing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This figure does not include cancer-related opioid prescriptions. Not only is a large percentage of the country using opioids for ongoing pain, but it's costing them dearly--in more ways than one.

Opioids and Health Insurance

More and more medical insurance companies are covering costly, name-brand opioid pain medications, instead of alternative and generic drugs. Patients are paying more out-of-pocket with insurance, than without. Patients who have no medical insurance are able to use generic alternatives, coupons, and samples. In many ways, patients are able to try different treatments before settling on an opioid that the insurance company covers first. Talking with your doctor about treatment options for chronic pain is as important as preventative care. Opioids are not the only option, and sometimes they're the worst option.

Opioids and Life Insurance

If you are applying for life insurance, one of the biggest red flags for the life insurance company is the medication list. This information comes directly from your physician and cannot be hidden from the life insurance company. Prolonged treatment with opioid drugs will turn insurance companies off either because of the underlying condition that causes the chronic pain, or because of the risk for health problems and addiction associated with opioid use. If you use prescription opioids for chronic pain management, your condition should justify it. Even then, life insurance companies are on high-alert.

How to Get Insured

Discuss life insurance with your physician. Tell him or her your plans, and ask for help. Most of the factors that turn life insurance companies off can be corrected, or at least improved.

  • Update health information and medication lists as often as possible. Take your medications according to the prescription, refill them accordingly, and notify your doctor when you have started or stopped a regular medication (over-the-counter or otherwise) so that your records can be updated.
  • Decrease the amount of medications you're on. Many patients end up on multiple medications to treat the side effects of a necessary medication. Talk with your doctor about alternatives that may cause fewer problems and require less meds.
  • Do your homework when your doctor prescribes something. Ask questions. If the drug that your doctor recommends has multiple adverse effects, and there is a less risky option, go for the alternative. Adverse side effects raises a red flag to life insurers.
  • Do not lie about medications or health conditions when applying for life insurance. Dishonesty on legal forms and applications identifies you as a bigger risk than the medications you're taking!

Obtaining life insurance may be one of your most important decisions. Don't let your health or medication history stand in your way. Talk with your doctor now about what you can do to lower your risk and help you to get life insurance.

 

 

You can avoid a lot of headache and heartache by storing and disposing of your medications safely and properly. Storing meds incorrectly can cause them to lose potency, work less effectively, and may even lead to adverse effects. If you're not sure how a medication should be stored, check the paperwork that came from the pharmacy, or call them and ask them.

Read the Labels

Make sure to read the labels on your medication. Not only does the label explain how to properly take the medication, and the dosage, but also safe storage of the medication. This is not a suggestion.

Store in refrigerator means it should be stored at 2-8˚C or 36-46˚F.

Store at room temperature means it should be stored  at 20-25˚C or 68-77˚F.

Store in a cool place means it is best stored in a refrigerator, unless the label says otherwise.

Keep Out of Reach of Children

Medications, both for children and adults should be kept out of the reach of children. Children's medications often taste sweet and flavored like candy, while adult medications look a lot like candy. Most people simply put their medications all in one place, in the bathroom cabinet. There are a few things wrong with this plan. First, the bathroom is often hot and moist--two things that are bad for medications. Second, a standard medicine cabinet does not lock and is accessible by children and guests who may visit the home. Every medication should be kept out of the reach of children, no matter what type of medication it is. Even supplements should be locked up and monitored, because the dosage is appropriate for an adult, not a child. Adult supplements that have iron as an inactive ingredient can cause poisoning and serious injury, or death in a child.

Store all medications out of reach of childrenWhen storing medications in the refrigerator consider a lock-box, or a childproof bag or box.

Do not leave planner pill boxes within the reach of children. These products are helpful to adults, but look fun for young children. They belong in a top cupboard, in the top of a medicine cabinet, or behind locked doors where children have no access.

Disposing of Unused Medications

Disposing of unused medicine is not always on our mind as we finish an "as needed" prescription or when an ill family member gets well, or worse, passes away. When disaster happens, disposing of the medication may not be a priority, but should be done nonetheless. Medications that are unused will also go unnoticed when accidentally taken or stolen. The best way to dispose of medication is to take advantage of a drug take-back event hosted annually by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency or transfer unused medications to a DEA-authorized collector in your area.

If this is not an option in your area, and there are no specific instructions on the medication label for disposal, you can use your household trash.

  1. Mix the medication with an unpalatable substance such as dirt, cat litter, or used coffee grounds. Do not crush tablets or capsules.
  2. Place the mixture in a container or sealed bag.
  3. Throw the container in your household trash.
  4. Scratch out label information from bottles, and discard in the trash. Do not throw away medications inside bottles.

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