December Case Study
Asthma & the Cost of Medication
Conor, 28 called to Asthma Adviceline to find out if any assistance is available to help pay for asthma medication.
My name is Conor and I am 28 years old. I was diagnosed with asthma when I was three. I have been taking asthma medication for 25 years. Until I finished college, my parents helped me to pay for my asthma medication. Since then, I have been covering all my medication costs myself. This was always a financial burden but recently I have had a pay cut and I am finding it is increasingly difficult to maintain regular use of my preventer inhaler. My asthma is not as well controlled as it should be. My monthly medication bill is 120€. The drug payment scheme covers medicines above 120€. I am not eligible for a medical card and I have to pay for the medication and the visit to my GP to get the prescription. I am finding it very difficult to maintain regular therapy, my asthma is deteriorating and my work performance is slipping. I have had to take sick leave at work. I called the Asthma Adviceline to find out if there is any financial assistance out there for me.
Advice from the Asthma Nurse for Conor
This story is typical of a silent majority of people with asthma in Ireland during these recessional times. Unfortunately we do not have any quick fix to this increasingly familiar scenario; however we can offer the following advice and suggestions;
Ask your health care professional or pharmacist about taking generic medicines. These are medicines without a brand name and are therefore much cheaper. Unfortunately there is not a generic version for each of the asthma medications on the market at present but there are a limited number available. It is important to note that some older medications are still as effective as the more recent versions. So if there is no generic version ask your health care professional or pharmacist if there is an older, cheaper alternative available.
Reducing your exposure to allergens which trigger your asthma is still possible on a reduced budget. For example, quitting smoking and making your home a smoke free environment is one of the best steps to take in achieving asthma control. Other cost effective, simple steps to take to help control your asthma are;
• Wrap a scarf around your mouth and nose before leaving the house on frosty mornings.
• Wash bedding in hot water circa 60degrees, damp dust, use a vacuum with a Hepa filter, damp dust, and ventilate the house well.
Preventer / reliever medication is expensive, so it is vital to have correct inhaler technique. If the inhaler device is not used correctly, the medicine will not be deposited in the airways and so the beneficial effect is lost or dramatically reduced. There are many devices available to deliver the same medication, so it is important to receive instruction in the correct use of the device that suits you. Discuss this with your health care professional or pharmacist. You can watch videos on correct inhaler technique here.
An asthma management plan developed in partnership with your health care professional is the best way of you gaining control of your asthma rather than your asthma controlling you. A good asthma management plan will mean that the dosage of asthma medication you are prescribed will be the minimum medication you need to control your asthma, which is the most cost effective way of controlling your asthma.
The Asthma Society will continue to campaign for better resources for those with asthma. We would encourage or invite you to discuss with your local councillor or TD the possibility of increased subsidisation or inclusion of asthma on the long term illness benefit scheme.
The Asthma Adviceline is open Monday to Friday from 10am to 1pm on 1850 44 54 64.
Money to be Saved
Earlier this year, the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA) cut the prices of almost 300 of their most widely-prescribed medicines by 40%. As a result of these reductions, the branded drugs on the list are now cheaper than their generic versions, and c u s t o m e r s should be saving several euro each time their prescription is dispensed – potentially as much as €500 a year, says the Association.
The website – www.checkthelist.ie - carries a detailed list of all the medicines and their new, lower prices. Consumers can also call 1890 876 700 for this information. However, pharmacists are under no obligation to pass on the new lower prices to consumers. A HSE spokesperson suggests that if patients are not seeing the benefits of these price cuts they should shop around. And now for some more good news: the prices of commonly prescribed generic drugs have been cut by 40% since October 1 this year, following a deal between the Department of Health and the Association of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers in Ireland (APMI).
Under this new system, pharmacists will be obliged to tell consumers if there are cheaper generic medicines available when they hand in prescriptions to be filled.
For patients who are not covered by the medical card system and who pay the first €120 of all medication costs, it is really important to make sure you look for the best value. Pharmacists can charge between 20% and 50% markup on preventer treatments. Ask your pharmacist what they charge; it may be possible to find pharmacists in your area who operate only a 20% markup on prescriptions.