Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Surprising Thing You Should Always Comparison Shop For



We all know that we should comparison shop for things like flights, cars, and even baby diapers. But there is one thing that we should ALWAYS comparison shop for…even though most people never do.

Prescription medications.

Prescription Drugs Are Expensive
Drug prices rose an average of nearly ten percent over the 12-month period ending in May 2016 – a time when the overall inflation rate was just one percent in the U.S.

A report from data firm IMS Health estimates patients, insurers, government programs, and other payers spent a combined $309.5 billion in 2015 on prescriptions. The IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics predicts spending will reach $370 billion to $400 billion in 2020.

There is a misconception among many consumers that drug prices “are what they are” and there is little consumers can do to combat them. That isn’t necessarily true. From comparing prices at different pharmacies to using a free prescription savings card program, there are definitely effective ways to lower your family’s prescription drug costs.

How to Comparison Shop for Prescription Drugs
It used to be that comparison shopping for prescription medications required a lot of leg work – identifying local pharmacies and then making multiple phone calls to inquire about the prices of the drugs you need. The FamilyWize website takes away all of that hassle.

Earlier this year, FamilyWize launched its Medicine Cabinet, which allows you to store all of your family’s prescription information in one secure location, so that you can use that data to comparison shop for the lowest available prices. You can use this feature in conjunction with our medication discount card. Here’s how the FamilyWize Medicine Cabinet works:

      Create a personal profile to save and track your family’s prescription drug price searches.
      Search and compare prescription drug prices within a designated zip code.
      Bundle prescriptions by pharmacy to see total cumulative costs prior to visiting the pharmacy.
      Compare pricing between generic and name brand prescriptions.
      Toggle search results between pharmacy locations and drug cost breakdowns to make informed decisions for your family.
      Instantly download the FamilyWize card or app.

Want to give it a try? Visit FamilyWize.org and start a new search or create your own account. Have questions about how to use the Medicine Cabinet or thoughts on how we can improve it? Please email us at support@familywize.org. We love to hear from you!

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Ask an Expert: Patient Rights at the Pharmacy Counter


This post is part of our “Ask an Expert” blog series. In this post, Ken Majkowski, Pharm.D and Chief Pharmacy Officer at FamilyWize, addresses the rights all patients have when they visit the pharmacy. Ken brings more than 40 years of healthcare experience to the FamilyWize team, including 14 years of clinical pharmacy experience in retail, hospital, and home care. Read his full bio, here.

There are many articles and pamphlets available that describe what your rights are as a patient at a doctor’s office. But are you aware of your rights at your local pharmacy?

Specifically, there are five patient rights that I encourage everyone to be aware of before they fill a prescription for any member of their family.

Patient Rights at the Pharmacy

1. Right to choose your pharmacy
First and foremost, you have the right to choose which pharmacy you go to for your prescription needs. Too many patients default to the pharmacy closest to their home or doctor’s office, without researching the prices of their medications or considering other variables like added services (e.g. delivery options or in-store clinics). You have the right to choose the pharmacy that will best serve your family’s needs.

2. Right to access a pharmacist for questions and counseling
You have the right to ask to speak with the pharmacist. Sometimes the person who hands you your prescription is a pharmacy technician, not a licensed pharmacist. He or she should offer you access to the on-duty pharmacist if you have any questions about your prescription, but even if they do not, you always have the right to ask. You are not “bothering” the pharmacist and the pharmacy technician will not be insulted.

3. Right to privacy of both conversation and records
Thanks to HIPAA, patient privacy has become the norm. Patients should always expect their personal information and medical records to be kept strictly confidential. But if a pharmacist or pharmacy technician initiates a conversation with you about your medication, you always have the right to request a more private location. Today, most pharmacies have separate counters, privacy rooms, or partitioned areas available for that purpose.

4. Right to choose your method of payment
Did you know that you don’t have to use your health insurance to purchase a prescription, even if you have coverage? At the pharmacy counter, you always have the right to choose if you would like to apply your insurance benefits or pay cash. Depending on your coverage, the pharmacist may be able to help you understand what your most cost-effective option might be. For example, some patients find that they save more money by paying cash and utilizing the free Rx prescription discount card from FamilyWize than by using other coverage or discount options, especially for patients with a High Deductible Health Plan.

5. Right to file a grievance
If you are unhappy with the service you have received for any reason, you have the right to file a grievance or complaint. To find your pharmacy’s protocols, please ask at your pharmacy or search your pharmacy’s website for additional details.

Knowing your patient rights and utilizing them will enable you to become a better-informed participant in your own healthcare and wellbeing. And the next time you refill your prescription at the pharmacy, remember to use your free pharmacy discount card from FamilyWize.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Opioid Epidemic: Three Things Families Should Know


The New York Times recently reported that drug overdose deaths in 2016 most likely exceeded 59,000, the largest annual jump ever recorded in the United States. The article attributes this terrifying statistic to an escalating public health crisis: opioid addiction, now made more deadly by an influx of fentanyl and similar drugs. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50.

How can you keep your loved ones safe? Here are three facts about the opioid crisis that families need to know:

1. In many cases, illegal heroin and fentanyl use begins with the abuse of legally prescribed painkillers.  As described in The Economist, opioids can be divided into three broad groups. First, are legitimate painkillers, such as OxyContin, which is FDA-approved and even eligible for prescription savings. Heavily prescribed since the 1990s, some of these pills were abused by people who defeated their slow-release mechanisms by crushing and then snorting or injecting them. The second group consists of powerful synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl and carfentanil. These have legitimate medical uses, but are often manufactured illegally and smuggled into America. The third opioid is heroin, derived from opium poppies, almost all of it illegally.

Too often, abuse begins innocently enough – a middle-aged woman with chronic back pain begins regularly using legally prescribed opioid pain medication. She may find that over time, she needs more and more to feel better. Then when her prescription runs out, she discovers that she can’t get through the day without it and turns to illegal options, like fentanyl or heroin.

Sadly, it is just as likely that her teenage son may get his hands on her prescribed medication, taking “just a few pills for a party.” His addiction will then often follow the same path, until his life is consumed by his need for the drugs.

2. The opioid epidemic is not an urban problem or a “bad people” problem. The Economist also reports that deaths are highest in the Midwest and Northeast, among middle-aged men, and among Caucasians. Some of the worst-affected counties are rural. As Bruce Y. Lee, a Forbes.com contributor put it, “Science will help everyone understand that opioid addiction is not ‘bad people doing bad things.’... It's not as if more and more people around the country since the '90s have decided to turn bad. The opioid epidemic is a systems problem.” Because the danger is the drug itself and how it affects the brain, it is critical for all families to work to prevent drug addiction.

3. If you face chronic pain, there are alternatives to opioids. Before you accept a prescription for any pain medication, ask about what kind it is and what your options are. Short-term use of opioids can be safe, but if you have school-age children in the house or expect to be taking your medication for an extended period of time, it is worth asking about addiction risk and other alternatives.

Unfortunately, sometimes opioid alternatives are not covered by some health insurances. That is where FamilyWize can help. Our Free Rx Prescription Discount Card enables everyone, both insured and uninsured, to save on their prescription medications, with average savings of around 40 percent. Learn more at FamilyWize.org.

To learn more about the opioid epidemic, please visit the CDC website – Understanding the Epidemic.

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