If drug prices are going up, and Americans are fed up with prescription costs, wouldn’t you expect more people to be buying lower cost medications from outside the country? With fewer Americans buying medication internationally, potentially one million, how many of them are simply not taking prescribed medication? Are our most trusted authorities scaring Americans away from obtaining lower cost medications from other countries, or has affordable access improved over the past few years?
I’m talking about super-sized supermarket Publix, which operates over 1000 stores throughout the Southeastern U.S. Sure, it’s not the only superstore to offer this but I happened to come across its Free Medication Program while researching drug prices today: and I want to talk about it.
There’s a lot of yelling and screaming and downright hostility toward the pharmaceutical industry (much of it warranted), including against generic drug companies, who are under scrutiny because some old generics have increased in price by thousands of percent. So here’s a little relief…free medication.
The list is not long but the following drugs are free at Publix pharmacies: Amlodipine, Lisinopril, and Metformin. Bring your script and walk out with a 90 day supply free. If you’re prescribed a 14-day antibiotic treatment of Amoxicillin, Ampicillin, Sulfamethoxazole/Trimethoprim, Ciprofloxacin (but not its XR version) and Penicillin VK – free at Public Pharmacies.
Now most of us don’t live near a Publix. Very low cost and free drug programs at U.S. retailers and chain pharmacies were launched almost a decade ago when Walmart announced its $4 prescription drug programs. The programs are still around and a report is long overdue about them. I promise to bring you a broader list of these free medication programs in the New Year.
Why would a pharmacy offer medications for free? If you’re looking for a full explanation, here’s some good journalism in Toledo’s The Blaze from 2006. It has something to do with the medication being a “loss leader” for the company. Then again, who cares – the meds are free.
Americans should know about the heat coming down against the pharmaceutical industry from certain members of Congress in an effort to combat the public health crisis of high drug prices. This week, nine lawmakers from the House of Representatives announced the formation of a new group called the Affordable Drug Pricing Task Force. Its goals are clear, to lower cost barriers to life saving medication and to demand greater transparency about drug cost decisions made by the pharmaceutical industry.
Two pertinent facts were continually raised. One, high drug prices are the No. 1 healthcare issue in America. Two, medication prices are much lower in other countries, about 50% lower in the UK.
To announce the task force, a press conference was led by Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) and included speeches by Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-MI), Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), and Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD). We wrote about Rep. Cummings’ efforts a couple of weeks back as Congressman Cummings noted PharmacyChecker.com as a supporter of the Prescription Drug Affordability Act of 2015. I also want to note thank Congresswoman DeLauro for recently becoming a co-sponsor of the Personal Drug Importation Fairness Act of 2015.
The speakers have supported a variety of solutions to lowering drug prices, including allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies; ending “pay-for-delay,” a practice sometimes described as payoffs by brand drug patent holders to generic drug companies to that the latter will postpone launching a lower cost generic; reforming prescription drug importation laws to make it easier to access lower cost medications from other countries; and greater oversight into pharmaceutical industry pricing practices.
Some highlighted quotes or phrases:
“If the people are not able to afford their prescriptions that means they suffer and in some instances they die.” Rep. Cummings.
McDermott’s take: “The pharmaceutical companies have got the Congress in the palm of their hand and they will not let us go.”
The problem of high drug prices was referred to as an “emergency situation” by Rep. Sander Levin.
It’s no secret that I support much of this agenda. But what is needed is bipartisanship, and I’m waiting for these leaders, as part of their noble effort, to consider looking critically at the Obama administration’s record on personal drug importation and online pharmacies. Candidate Obama in 2007 supported reforming the law to make it easier for Americans to import lower cost medication. Unfortunately, in its efforts to pass the Affordable Care Act, which I supported, the Obama administration made a deal with big pharma to change course and dump drug importation legal reform in exchange for pharma’s support for Obamacare and agreement to new discounts on Medicare Part D medications through the coverage gap (the “Donut hole”).
On that final note, the Obama administration, though the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has announced a forum on drug prices to be held on November 20th. Maybe we’ll learn that the Obama administration’s position on prescription drug importation has returned to one more in line with most Americans. We’ll keep our fingers crossed.
(You can view the complete press conference below)
Members of the newly formed Affordable Drug Pricing Task Force will hold a press conference announcing meaningful action to combat the skyrocketing costs of pharmaceuticals. Who: Reps. Cummings, Doggett, McDermott, DeLauro, Schakowsky, and Welch.
Affordable Drug Pricing Task Force Press Conference – Nov 4, 2015