Showing posts with label medicine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label medicine. Show all posts

Monday, August 20, 2012

Understanding Generic Drugs

Answers to Four Common Questions about Generic Medications

prescriptions drugs
Generic medications save consumers 80% to 85%.
Below are some of the most common questions that people have regarding generic drugs:
  • Do generic drugs really save me money?
  • Are generic drugs a safe substitute for name brand drugs? Are generic medications the same quality?
  • Why is a generic medication sometimes not available for a brand name drug that I need?
  • How do I find or get generic medicines in place of a brand-name drug?
  • What prescription drug insurance issues must I be aware of?
Let’s take a look at these five common questions (or, as the case may be, misunderstandings) about generic drugs so you can be informed when you go to your pharmacist or doctor.

1.  Do generic medications really save me money?

Oh, yes!  The average amount saved by U.S. consumers monthly by purchasing a generic medicine rather than a brand name drug with their prescription is $3 billion every week, according to a September 2011 economic analysis of generic drug use by the Generic Pharmaceutical Association (GPhA).  That’s $158 billion that Americans save each year with generic drugs!

How much you save personally from switching to generic drugs will depend on how many drugs you use and whether the brand name prescriptions you use are available in generic form.   But the savings can be substantial; Generic medications are up to 90 percent less expensive than their name-brand prescription equivalents, and the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) reports that on average, the generic drug will cost you 80-85 percent less than the brand name product.

2. Why is a generic medication sometimes not available for a brand name drug that I need?

Most pharmaceutical companies get a patent for the drugs that they develop.  Until that patent expires, their drug will only be available legally (i.e., without patent infringement) under their own manufacturing: their own brand name.  This is why just half of the brand-name drugs on the market are currently available in generic form.

While this may seem unfair from our perspective as consumers, the cost of research, development, and patent approval are enormous for any new drug entering the U.S. market.  The patent protection allows the drug manufacturer to recoup its investment before any other company can manufacture or distribute the drug as a generic equivalent to the original name-branded drug.

This also explains why a generic drug can be sold for so much less; the manufacturer of the generic drug only pays for the cost of making the drug, not the cost of research and FDA approvals. 

3.  How do I find or get generic medicines in place of a brand-name drug prescriptions?

In most cases, you must simply ask your pharmacist if the drug you’ve been prescribed has a generic equivalent.  If it’s made in generic form, the pharmacy usually carries it or can order it for you.
Some pharmacists will ask if you want the generic drug instead, but this is not always the case.  So, be sure to ask!

4.  What prescription drug insurance issues must I be aware of?

    Almost none.  Most health insurance companies that provide prescription drug insurance benefits cover generic medications at the same rates of out-of-pocket versus covered amounts as they do with name brand prescription.

    Insurance companies benefit from the savings of generic drugs just as much or even more so than we do and often get involved  in advocacy for more generic drug availability, especially now that so much research, data, and evidence support the facts that generic medications are cheaper and as reliable as name brand drugs.
    medicine name brand drugs
    Insurance companies advocate for generic drug availability.

    Summary: Generic Drugs Are Both Safe and Good Economics!

    Most data, not just government sourced, supports the facts; you can safely control health costs for you and your family by using generic drugs to substitute for the name brand drugs prescribed by your doctor.  

    Want to dig deeper?  Check out these resources:
    And while you’re working for ways to trim your prescription costs, make sure you’ve printed out your FREE FamilyWize prescription card.  Show it to your pharmacist to save even more!  Generics are less than name brand drugs and with FamilyWize, you'll save up to 75% on your generic medications!

    Monday, August 6, 2012

    Check Your Expiration - Prescription Meds

    With the cost of prescription medicines rising, many people might be tempted to hold on to a medication just in case they need to take them again.  Maintenance medications, those we take on a daily basis for chronic medical issues, are filled on a regular basis.  But what about medicine we take for seasonal allergy relief or for temporary pain?  Should we hold onto unfinished portions?  Is it safe to take them again, even if they are a little past their expiration dates?

    expired medine
    Expiration dates on medicine also called discard after date.
    Expiration Dates
    The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) started requiring expiration dates on medicine sold by prescription and over the counter.  Expiration dates can be found on the prescription label, the bottle, or box of the medication.  The FDA contends that medication expiration dates help in determining a medication's effectiveness and safety after expiration.  Expired medication can lose its effectiveness and in some cases can even pose a threat to one's health.  Tetracyclin for example is an antibiotic that can cause serious kidney damage if taken after expiration date.  

    Most expiration dates range from one to five years.  However, in some states, pharmacies are required to give a prescription a one year expiration date once they have re-bottled and dispensed it.  Berkeley University advises that under ideal conditions, many medications remain stable long after their expiration dates.  However, most people do not keep their medications in these conditions.  Once the bottle is opened, a medication begins to break down. Exposure to sunlight, extreme temperatures or moisture affect the stability of medications.

    Are All Expiration Dates Equal?
    Berkeley University lists the following medicines that break down quickly and should not be used past the expiration date.
    • Liquid antibiotics
    • Liquids requiring refrigeration
    • Insulins
    • Nitroglycerine
    • Epi-pens
    The following are medications that may be safe to use, although could be less effective, after expiration.
    • Cold remedies
    • Topical ointments and creams
    • Pain relievers
    • Sleeping aids
    Medication packaging also contains information regarding safe storage and expiration dates.  As with anything we eat or put on our skin, if it is discolored, has a strong odor or has changed in appearance, for example become powdery, it should be discarded.

    effects of expired medicine
    Expiration dates on over the counter drugs.
     The FDA advises that expired medication can pose a health risk if taken after the expiration date, especially if not stored properly.  It is important to read and follow the instructions for proper storage of both prescription and over the counter medications.  They should  be stored in a controlled climate and properly sealed in their containers.

    Medicine Storage Do's & Don'ts
    • Do store in a cool, dry, dark place away from heat and moisture.
    • Do refrigerate when indicated.
    • Do not store in a bathroom medicine cabinet.
    • Do not store in your car.
    Medications can start to break down and lose their potency (also called efficacy) once they are exposed to air and different temperatures.  Does this automatically mean that the expired medicine poses a health risk?  Not necessarily.  Berkeley University explains that there is no evidence to suggest that expired medication is harmful to your health.  It could depend on the medication.  Many experts feel that it is not worth risking.  The FDA advises not to take the risk.  The chemical composition of a medication can start to break down due to improper storage and this could be dangerous.

    Even if  there does not seem to be a threat due to an expiration date, consider these reasons for properly discarding unused medications.  Robert H. Shmerling, M.D. of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center advises:

    Medication Dangers
    • Abuse - Prescription pain killers are often abused, especially by teenagers.
    • Accidental dose or overdose - Children and the elderly can take medications by accident.  Taking a medication that is not prescribed can be dangerous even in a small dosage. 
    • Pets - Like children and elderly parents can get into medications, too.
    • Poisoning - Medication poisoning is a leading cause of death from poisoning.
    As a full time caregiver, I will also add that it is very easy to grab the wrong prescription or even over the counter bottle on a busy morning.  Last summer while my mother was taking Coumadin, a blood thinner, she had several different dosages available.  Patients who take Coumadin often experience dosage changes, especially when they first start taking the blood thinner.  It can change every two weeks, or even more frequently.  I had to keep the different bottles well marked and separated in order to avoid giving her the wrong dosage.  Too much and she could bleed to death.  Too little and she could develop a deadly blood clot.

    For some medications, we might have to keep some on hand.  For most we do not have to.  Don't make your job harder. Discard expired medication and avoid medication dangers as much as possible.

    As rising costs continue to influence how long we hold onto prescription and over the counter medications, expiration dates will factor into our decision to keep or discard those old bottles.  If you are cost conscious, as most of us are, remember that the FamilyWize prescription discount drug card is free and can be used at over 61,000 participating pharmacies.  Save up to 75% off the cost of prescription drugs.

    If you do have expired medication, come September is the DEA National Take Back Initiative.  This initiative allows you to return expired medicines so that they are properly disposed of.  We will be posting a blog in September as a reminder and give you more information about where you can go.  In the meantime, check with your pharmacy or for proper disposal directions of over-the-counter and prescription medications.

    Caroline Carr
    Contributing Writer

    Friday, June 29, 2012

    Options for MediCare Part D Prescriptions

    Working at FamilyWize really gives me assurance that there are always options when it comes to getting needed prescription medicine - even those of you in the donut hole who are probably asking, "Now what?" 

    medicare prescription assistance programs
    Light on the other side of the Donut Hole.
    If you are new to Medicare and the Part D prescription coverage gap, then there are a few things you need to know:
    1. There is a temporary gap in prescription coverage depending on the plan you've chosen so your monthly prescription medication costs may rise.
    2. Whether or not you enter into the coverage gap is based on your drug plan spending for those drugs that are covered.
    3. Once you enter whether or not you will exit the donut hole additional funds and qualify for catastrophic coverage for the remainder of the year is based on your out of pocket expenses while in the Medicare coverage gap.  
    Confusing? For more information or help go to or call 1-800-MEDICARE or check with your pharmacist.

    If You Calculate That You Won't Spend Enough Money Out of Pocket to Qualify for Catastrophic Coverage... Then Here Are Tips to Make the Best of the Coverage Gap While You Are In It

    If you do enter the coverage gap, as promised from last week's blog "The Dreaded Medicare Donut Hole"; here are some options and resources on how to land softly and survive the donut hole dunk! 

    If you think you will spend enough to get out of the gap - DO NOT use these options.
    1. Compare, Compare, Compare - If you are not going to spend enough to get out of the donut hole, say it with me-COMPARE!  There are many options from manufacturer rebates to store programs that may be able to help you save a chunk of money.
    2. Chat with your Pharmacist - Your pharmacist is aware of different programs that can be used in conjunction with Medicare Part D insurance.  Talk to your pharmacist to see which program would work best for you based on the medications you are prescribed.
    3. Talk to your Doc - Your doctor doesn't necessarily know what health insurance you have because there are medical billers whose jobs are to handle insurance matters.  (I know this because a good friend is one!)  Let your doctor know that you are a Medicare Part D recipient and have fallen into the donut hole. See if your brand-name prescription medications have generics that could be just as effective.  Your doctor might have some other tricks like changing your medication's strength or dosage to save you money or even hook you up with some samples to get you through to the other end of the gap.  Who doesn't love samples! 
    4. Resources - National Council on Aging (NCOA) is a non-profit and advocacy organization that works with various organizations to help seniors find jobs and benefits, improve their health, live independently, and remain active in their community.  It offers a free service called BenefitsCheckUp.  After you answer a series of questions, it creates a personalized report of the programs that may be able to assist you in areas such as medication, food, and housing.  You can also view different State Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs put together by that may be able to give you a hand.
    5. Talk it Out - Check out message boards or blogs to connect with people who are in the same boat you are.  It might make the process a little bit easier.  Online support can be a great resource.
    6. FamilyWize - We can help Medicare recipients who have fallen into the donut hole.  If you know you won't get out, you can use FamilyWize FREE discount prescription drug card to save up to 75% on your generic medications.  FamilyWize can be used for FDA-approved medications in and out of the gap that aren't covered by Medicare when purchased at a participating pharmacy.
    Whether you are in the donut hole or are able to spend enough to get catastrophic coverage,  we want to help you find options!  If you know of options that are not listed here, please share!

    Krysta W.

    Tuesday, June 19, 2012

    Don't Pill'fer Your Medications Potency This Summer

     "Store Medications at Room Temperature"

    Those four words are etched on most pill bottle labels, but how many of us travel with temperature-sensitive medications follow those words? 

    Temperature Medications Sensitive
    Medications left in car can lose potency.
    Summer is here, which means higher temperatures, vacation travel  and the potential for compromising medications that require a temperature controlled environment.

    We all do it:  leave the inhaler in the glove box; the insulin bottle slips between the seats; and those nitroglycerin tablets fell out of the blazer pocket when thrown in the back seat. 

    Leaving medications that are sensitive to heat does more than simply warm them.  When prescription medications are left at above room temperatures, like in a hot car, it affects how potent and effective the drug is.  During peak summer months, interior car temperatures can reach over 110 degrees, which well exceeds the 72 degree room temperature typical for medications. 

    Here are a few tips on how to travel smarter with your temperature sensitive medications:

    1.  Don't leave medications in your car when you're not. Think of them as a pet- you wouldn't leave a dog in a hot car, would you?! Don't leave them to sweat it out in the trunk either, but somewhere air circulates to keep a safe temperature.

    2.  Certain prescription drugs are more susceptible to heat than others and require a controlled temperature
    • Insulin, which is used to treat diabetes patients, degrades very quickly when exposed to heat and should never be left in a car.  According to the American Diabetes Association, current bottles of insulin should be stored at room temperature and extra bottles can be stored in the fridge.  It should never be stored in the freezer, in direct sunlight, or in the glove compartment of a vehicle. 
    • Nitroglycerin, used by those who have heart conditions, is affected very quickly by heat.  According to, Nitroglycerin is to be stored at room temperature and away from heat, moisture, and light. 
    • Inhalers, a device used to treat Asthma, contain medicine in a pressurized can.  According to Proventil, a brand of asthma inhaler, exposure to temperatures above 120°F may cause bursting. 
    • Epicene, used for the emergency treatment of allergic reactions (anaphylaxis), is another drug that should not be exposed to heat.  According to, EpiPens should be stored at room temperatures, not refrigerated or frozen, and stored away from heat, light, and moisture.  Brief storage at temperatures between 59 and 86 degrees is permitted.
    3.  Check with your doctor or pharmacist to see if your medication is able to be refrigerated.  Depending on the medication, sticking your medications in a cooler usually has a lesser affect on medication than heat.  Find a cooler with a strap so you can tote it around on your shoulder to shield your medications from the heat and sun.

    4.  Before you down your medicine, be sure to check the anatomy of your medicine.  If it comes in the form of a capsule or pill, double check to make sure they aren't stuck together or wilted.  If your pills don't look the same after they were exposed to heat, it's probably best to check with your doctor or pharmacist to see if they are still safe to consume.

    5.  If traveling on a plane, do not check your prescription drugs with your luggage. Most cargo holds are not climate controlled so the potency of your pills cannot be guaranteed.  Throw your pills in your carry on bag - that way you know they are safe. 

    6.  Most pharmacies will provide a one time replacement for incidents like these.  Check with your insurance company, or drug manufacturer to see if it will replace your medicine.  If your insurance company will not provide a replacement for your overheated med and you have to purchase it at retail price, print out a FamilyWize Card and take it to one of our participating pharmacies.  Eight out of ten times, FamilyWize can give you a discount on your FDA approved medication.

    Of course, only your doctor or pharmacist can provide professional advice on effective ways to store medications.

    So, who else is guilty of leaving their medications in a summery place? Comment to share your PILLfered potency story!

    Krysta W.