When do patients find out how much they will pay for their drugs?

Consumer Reports writes that “66% of those polled by Consumer Reports said they found out the cost of a drug when they picked it up at the pharmacy counter, while just 4% said they had a conversation with their doctor about the cost of a drug.”  Because doctors do not discuss cost with their patients, these patients often forego necessary medications.


  1. It doesn’t surprise me that some people still drop off prescriptions at the most convenient pharmacy and never inquire about the cost (or call around for the best price). However, I’m surprised it’s as high as two-thirds. This lack of consumerism is getting somewhat better now that Walmart (and others) have adopted the $4 generic prescription. Supposedly, some doctors report patients specifically asking if a prescribed drug is on the $4 list — which provides physicians with an incentive to provide a range of options. Otherwise, doctors would have to continually explain why a prescription is not on the list (e.g. it’s a free sample of a brand-name drug under patent protection). Six years ago when I first began my studies on “Shopping for Drugs” (currently being updated but most recent version here: the notion of comparing prices and therapeutic substitution (with cheaper drugs) were foreign concepts. I believe the spread of $4 prescriptions deserve much of the credit for slowing the growth of drug spending the past couple years.

  2. People with health insurance often don’t ask the costs of anything — prescriptions, treatment, or surgery. While this post mentions that some people go without medication because of the cost (and not being advised about it) many probably take drugs unnecessarily. Perhaps they would decide to do without them if they paid the full cost, or would ask for the generic that works just as well if the full cost of the designer drug came out of their pocket.

    I also think doctors should more often offer the generics or inform you about them. If they aren’t available, they SHOULD inform you about the cost of the prescription they are writing. It’s not right to assume that when the patient gets to the pharmacy they’re going to be able to afford the prescription.

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