Over the counter vs. prescription: What are the effects on pricing?

Over the counter vs. prescription: What are the effects on pricing?

So far in class we have dedicated a lot of time to why drugs are inaccessible due to disturbing high pricing by pharmaceutical companies.  According to this article, soon some very common drugs for chronic, non-infectious illnesses such as high blood pressure and asthma might be available over the counter.  I think that this could benefit our access to medicine in two ways: 1) you will no longer have to pay for the visit to the provider/rack up insurance costs for the visit that essentially is 90 seconds long anyway just to get a prescription 2) It has the potential to be another route for pressure on pharmaceutical companies to lower the cost of their drugs.  Because you would hypothetically no longer need a script for your medication, the point is made that technically the immediate out-of-pocket costs of the consumer could go up since a majority of insurances don’t cover over the counter purchases.  But especially with an election coming up, I think it’d be an awesome time for politicians to pressure the big pharmaceutical companies to lower their prices so that people could potentially afford their medication.  I also think this is a great step towards people being more involved with their own treatment.  Especially with chronic, non-infectious diseases it’s a chance for people to be more independent, monitor their health, and also possibly be more committed to their treatment plan.  Many times, people will “self prescribe” by cutting their dosage to make their medication last longer, or will just not take it to avoid having to deal with another doctor’s appointment.  As someone with asthma, I know that I’ve gone for gaps of time without my medication not because of lack of medication or insurance but because I could simply not get an appointment with my doctor that coordinated with my schedule.  On the other hand, it could also be argued that the solution for lowering health insurance costs is not to cut out the provider.  Especially because the disease is chronic, this proposal could further distance the already strained relationship between patients and their providers.  Along with trying to form a relationship with their patients, doctors use the three month checkup to not only prescribe more drugs, but to also monitor the dosage, make sure there are no side effects, and also check for other conditions that could arise (i.e. if you have hypertension you are at a higher risk for a heart attack or stroke, so maybe you should be checked out by your doctor for physical warnings of these conditions that a questionnaire on a computer can’t catch. Thoughts on this proposal?  Is cutting out the provider just a band aid the government is putting on the bigger problem of health insurance costs skyrocketing? 

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1 comment
  1. evelynatiemo said:

    I think that cutting out the interaction between patient and provider by allowing certain common drugs to be available over the counter would be a good idea. However, I do think that it should be done sparingly. In other words, it should be limited to those non-additive drugs that patients must have a continuous supply of (like birth control pills). By no means should drugs that have an additive quality to them, (such as methamphetamines used to treat ADHD), be among those common drugs available over the counter. A written script from a doctor should still be made every time a patient needs a refill for those medications. Having common drugs over the counter would allow for many Americans to gain some sort of control over their own health. But with that said, there is a very high possibility that people will abuse those over the counter drugs as well. After all, kids these days have found ways to get high off of bath salts and get drunk off of hand sanitizer. I think that that is certainly something to think about.

    In response to your question regarding whether or not the government is putting a bandaid on a much larger problem, I say yes. It would be nice if all Americans just suffered from chronic, non-infectious diseases (if they are to suffer from any diseases at all), and did not need to pay for a visit to the doctor for drugs that were available over the counter. But realistically speaking, people do get breast cancer, or prostate cancer, or suffer from renal failure; so a trip to the doctor is sometimes unavoidable. By making common drugs over the counter, the government is really not addressing the needs of those people whose lives depend largely on doctor visits. The government is not making the cost of insurance to cover those visits any more affordable for them.

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