This is not a novel observation, but getting prescriptions filled for a reasonable cost in the U.S. is a crap shoot.
I just spent an hour on the phone with my Medicare Part D insurance company, trying to get prior authorization for a medication I need to refill every other month, but which is not covered by my plan. This, after first calling my pharmacy to find out why they kept sending me messages about an “insurance issue” with the prescription and then being told that they had not yet submitted the scrip and would only know details when it was filled. Now, none of that made sense, because in my app for the pharmacy, I could see the price—nearly $700.
But I need to back up. Because I have for the past several years very successfully been able to fill this scrip and one other very expensive medication via a Canadian online pharmacy in British Columbia. Great service, much more reasonable pricing. That is, however, until last month, when I received a letter from the FDA informing me that my other very expensive medication refill had been impounded at the Port of Los Angeles after being flagged by U.S. Customs.
The reason? Since this medication was available in the U.S., but it was coming from Canada, its authenticity could not be confirmed. To “protect” me from consumer fraud, the FDA was going to destroy it. I wrote to the official who sent the letter, trying to get an exemption, but no luck. And this particular medication would cost in the four figures if filled by my approved local pharmacy.
What to do? Thankfully, my team at Boston Medical suggested an alternative: Marc Cuban Cost Plus Drugs. This is a legitimate, licensed drug wholesaler that fills prescriptions at cost plus a 15 percent markup. And fortunately, they carry my very expensive medication. Here’s the kicker: the price from Canada was $200 for a refill; with Marc Cuban, $10! It arrived within a week and it works just fine, thank you very much.
Unfortunately, they do not as yet carry my other expensive medication, the one for which I await prior authorization. Even with insurance, I’m expected it to be pricey. Maybe there is an alternative, to be discussed with my medical provider, given that we have to wait until 2025 for the new $2,000 cap on Medicare drug out-of-pocket expenses to go into effect. Which assumes that this important provision of the new Inflation Reduction Act doesn’t get killed before then, given all the craziness in Washington.
The system is just so convoluted. And clearly, from the wholesale price for my very expensive medication, Big Pharma is just making a killing. (No news there.) Plus, who really has time or patience to dig for all the information needed to pursue prior authorization? I’m fortunate that I can take care of this for myself, that I own my own schedule at this point in my life, and we can afford the medications we need. Not so for too many others.
And so, after the hour on the phone with the prior authorization department at my Part D insurer, writing an email to my provider to let her know about the form they faxxed, and getting a voice mail from my Part D insurance telling my original request to fill the scrip was turned down (yes, I figured that out already), it’s a waiting game. Fingers crossed . . .
Image: David Clode