President Obama just missed a perfect chance to save America’s prescription drug consumers a cool five billion dollars per year. In a recent speech on health care reform, the President said, “If there’s a blue pill and a red pill, and the blue pill is half the price of the red pill and works just as well, why not pay half price for the thing that’s going to make you well?”
If only he had changed the “blue” to “salmon pink,” the “red” to “purple,” and the “half the price” to “an eighth the price,” he would have thrown a bright light on one of the great economic absurdities of modern American medicine: people (and their insurers) paying $170 per month for the prescription acid-reflux drug Nexium when the nearly identical Prilosec OTC costs about $22/month—and without a doctor’s prescription. That’s right. There’s nothing in Nexium that isn’t in Prilosec OTC which itself used to be a major prescription medication before its patent ran out several years back. Every doctor I’ve asked says one works as well as the other for almost everyone. Taking Nexium? Ask your doctor. And save.
And as I wrote in my earlier book, Prescription Drugs for Half Price or Less, virtually everybody can cut the cost of their prescription drugs by as much as 90% simply by asking their doctor seven simple questions:
Doctor, can I save money with:
- Alternatives to drugs?
- OTC drugs instead of Rx?
- Generic drugs?
- Lower-priced brand drugs?
- Tablet-splitting doses?
- Ninety-day mail order Rxs?
- Extra free samples?
The sad irony of the President’s comment is that the Congressional health reform bill he so enthusiastically endorses, the Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, virtually prohibits consumers from ever knowing or caring about the prices of the drugs their doctors are considering for them.
In a market-driven system like my proposed American Choice Health Plan, empowered consumers would get the medications they need at the lowest price; drug costs (and prices) would plummet; and drug companies would stop wasting their time and our money on non-value-added drugs and focus instead on true innovations in treating and curing diseases.