Dr. Beads

Monday, March 14, 2005

Just Give Me the Meds at a $5 Co-Pay and No One Gets Hurt

I went to the local chain pharmacy to pick up refills on medications for myself and my spouse. As the pharmacy clerk ran the several pieces of pharmacy paperwork past the UPC code reader, I saw an unexpectedly large number flash by on the cash register readout.

“Wait,” I said. “One of those prices seemed too high.”

She checked, and up came the absurd figure of $71.35.

“That’s not right,” I said. “Which one was that for?”

“Drugtopia,” she stated, giving the brand name for a medication that recently became available in a generic form.

“But that’s available as a generic form now, and I’ve gotten it in here as a generic before,” I informed her.

She looked blanker than a fresh prescription pad.

“This happened before.” I informed her, staying remarkably calm. “Drugtopia is available in generic form, and Caifornia law requires that you fill the prescription with the generic unless the prescriber or the patient requests the brand-name. Can you please put something in my file stating that I want the generic?”

She checked the computer and said, “It’s the same for generic and brand-name. It’s the same co-pay.”

“But I paid $5 before, and $71.35 isn’t a co-pay.”

“It’s the same. That’s what the computer says. The same co-pay.”

“But that clearly isn’t a co-pay amount.”

“I’ll have someone else check.”

“Thank you.” (Closing eyes, massaging face, with fingertips, fantasizing about leaping over the counter.)

Several minutes pass, then: “It’s $5 for the generic. We’ll take care of that now.”

Twenty minutes later, I have my medication, in generic form, for $5. Thinking to save time on this transaction, I proffer a twenty instead of running my credit card through the machine on the counter. After the clerk starts to whimper about having an unsatisfactory supply of change, I dig in my bag again and come up with a $5 bill.

When I get home, I see that the receipt shows a price of $62 or so for drugolol (generic form of Drugtopia), so I still don’t know how the hell the clerk came up with the information that generic would cost the same as brand-name.

(The pharmacy in question also routinely neglects to provide patients with mandated counseling on new or changed prescription medications. Having a clerk ask, “Do you have any questions for the pharmacist”? is not the same as having the clerk say, “The pharmacist will speak briefly with you about this medication now.”)

National healthcare now!


Post a Comment

<< Home