high medication prices image

by Leah Samera
University of Arizona College of Pharmacy
PharmD Candidate, Class of 2018

It’s one of the most common questions we hear at ScriptSave: “Why are prescription medications so expensive?” With insurance deductibles going up and insurance companies providing less reimbursement, drug prices are outpacing the inflation rate. So why do drug companies continue to charge exorbitant prices for medications? The simple answer is, because they can.

There are a number of factors that affect the cost of medications. In the United States, drug costs are vastly higher relative to other countries. What sets the U.S. apart is that drug manufacturing companies are permitted to set their own price for a given prescription drug. Conversely, in countries with national health insurance systems, a separate organization negotiates drug prices or rejects coverage if the manufacturer proposes what is felt to be an excessive cost.

Market Exclusivity

The reason why brand name drug manufacturers are able to set such high prices in the United States is because they are “protected” from competition, and they have a lot of negotiating power; this leads to those manufacturers having market exclusivity. Market exclusivity is when the FDA allows a manufacturer to market their drug without generic competition. According to Kesselheim, et al. the median length of post-approval market exclusivity is 12.5 years for widely used drugs and 14.5 years for highly innovative, first-in-class drugs.

New medications are automatically protected from generic competition for anywhere between 5 and 12 years. On top of that, manufacturers may also receive patents that can last 20+ years. These companies can even extend their patent period by testing in children through the pediatric exclusivity program. They can also apply for additional patents on nontherapeutic aspects of a drug, such as the method of administration, coating, and formulation. Manufacturers can thus periodically implement and patent small changes to a drug, thus prolonging their market exclusivity.

Pay for Delay

Aside from legal protection, some brand-name manufacturers have historically negotiated with and offered financial incentives to generic manufacturers to defer introduction of a generic product until a later time; this is referred to as pay for delay. Some brand-name manufacturers have even paid generic manufacturers to cancel introduction of their generic product altogether. Brand-name manufacturers have also offered rebates to third party administrators of prescription drug plans to promote their product versus others in its class.

What About Generic Drugs?

Generic products can become expensive as well because, for some drugs, there is lack of motivation to create additional generic competitors. The number of generic manufacturers for a given drug depends on factors such as the size of the target population for the drug, availability of ingredients, and mergers in the industry. Those generic manufacturers with little competition may then raise prices.

Dispense As Written

It is also important to note that there are several laws and people involved in the process of writing and distributing a prescription medication. Physicians write prescriptions, pharmacists fill and sell prescription medications, and patients and/or insurers pay for said medications. The separation in these roles can often lead to physicians being unaware of drug prices and therefore not taking this consideration into account in clinical decision making. Several states also may not require pharmacists to conduct generic substitution, and all states allow physicians to write dispense as written prescriptions that pharmacists cannot substitute with a generic product.

How to Save Money on Prescription Drugs

Fortunately, the ScriptSave WellRx prescription savings program offers instant prescription discounts at the register on both brand name and generic prescription medications. Over 62,000 pharmacies across the U.S. participate, and there’s no enrollment fee or usage limits. Although there are many forces in the market that increase drug costs, ScriptSave WellRx delivers prescription savings solutions that can help you and everyone in your household save money on medications — even pets!

Registered members have access to a free suite of personal wellness tools in the Medicine Chest, including:

  • Ask a Pharmacist
  • Pill Reminders
  • Refill Reminders
  • Medication Information (in both English and Spanish)
  • Medication Videos
  • Mood-tracking (to review side effects, etc.)
  • Price-check and Pharmacy Locator

Download the free WellRx app from the iOS app store or the Google Play Store, and get registered to take advantage of our free medication adherence tools. If you’re struggling to afford your medications, visit www.WellRx.com to compare the cash price at pharmacies near you. You may find prices lower than your insurance co-pay!

References:

  • Kesselheim AS, Avorn J, Sarpatwari A. The high cost of prescription drugs in the United States: origins and prospects for reform. JAMA 2016; 316:858–871. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27552619
  • https://www.wellrx.com/faq

For the best Rx price on
prescription medications,
visit www.WellRx.com.
Compare prices at more than
62,000 pharmacies nationwide.

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save money on prescriptions

wabc prescription savings storyby Nina Peneda

We price compare for everything from shoes to SUV’s. So why not for medicine? Especially for those uninsured, there are way to save thousands a year. Shrinking your pill bill may start with a few clicks. ScriptSave WellRx compared the generic form of the cholesterol drug, Crestor (rosuvastatin calcium), across the tri-state area.

It could cost you as much as $105.77 for a 10mg month’s supply but according to SciptSave WellRx, using it’s service and savings card, you could price shop that cash, no insurance price down to $16.70. A savings of $89.07.

Be a Smart Healthcare Consumer

“It just pays to be a smart consumer, even in healthcare, you need to be a healthcare consumer, instead of a healthcare patient,” said Shawn Ohri, of ScriptSave WellRx.

Big box stores, groceries and drug stores all offer membership clubs and discount cards to save on the sky-rocketing cost of medicine.

Free memberships in online services like ScriptSave WellRx, websites that provide coupons and negotiate discounts with pharmacies, allow your fingers to do the walking before you do the running around.

“There are many cases where we can actually beat your insurance co-pay, or if you’re in a high deductible health plan there are many cases where our price may be lower,” Ohri said.

For example, according to ScriptSave WellRx, in the low-income areas of the Bronx, the generic version of the popular sleep aid, Lunesta, for someone with no insurance can cost six times more at one store than at a pharmacy less than a mile away.

At Us Pharmacy lab in Northvale, New Jersey, Pharmacist David Yoon feels the comparison services are a good starting point for consumers looking to save.

“It’s not 100-percent accurate, but it gives you a ball park figure who’s cheapest in your neighborhood,” Yoon said.

Ohri suggests always calling the pharmacy to get an updated actual price. And, most importantly, steer clear of expensive name brand medication if it’s okay with your doctor to use the generic form.

“The price difference is astronomical. Sometimes the brand names can cost 50 to 100 times more, especially in the cases where you don’t have insurance,” Yoon said.

Pharmacists also recommend no matter where you are filling your scripts, consider the relationship with the provider and the safety which comes with having all your records on file.

The big takeaway: There are other ways to save. Ask your pharmacy what the cash or retail price of your prescription is it just might beat your insurance price. Price match. If you see a lower price somewhere else, ask your pharmacy to match or beat it. If they want to keep your business they will. And ask your doctor about an assistance program. If you qualify, you could get the prescription for free.

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PIX 11 News - Prescription Savings image

by Kirstin Cole, PIX 11 News, New York

Unlock secret savings on prescriptionsIt’s a growing strain on our bottom line:  more Americans taking ever more prescribed medications and spending more of their income to do it.

The toll is evident, as one in 10 of us can’t afford our medications and are simply going without.  It’s what’s inspired one group to use the insider info they gained working in the pharmaceutical business to beat the drug sellers at their own game.

Here’s how to unlock your own secret savings, necessary since prescription pills are a daily way of life for nearly 60 percent of Americans, and it’s pricey.

Natalie Stelzer of Brooklyn Heights was blunt: “They are off the charts.  So expensive. Co-pays are dismal.”

Even as politicians in Washington duke it out over health care reform, Americans continue to spend more on medications — up to a  projected $457 billion in 2015, and rising.

Robert Gibbons of Brooklyn Heights worries as he sees what his mother faces when it comes to her prescription dugs.  He sums it up as  “backward and profiteering.”

That’s where  ScriptSave WellRx comes in.

Shawn Ohri and his team decided to tackle it.  They’re insiders who’ve worked with pharmacies and drug makers for decades, and they’re committed to bringing savings to consumers.

“Customers can save up 80 percent off retail cost of prescriptions.  In 2016  we saved 1.3 billion dollars on their prescription costs.”

The comparison shopping all happens on their app and website, ScriptSave WellRx, and the savings can be stunning.

We comparison shopped for Crestor, the cholesterol drug, using the area around PIX11 in midtown.  Within a few blocks we found it for as little as $18, and all the way up to $239.

Whether with insurance, or without, Ohri’s company uses bulk buying of medicines to negotiate cheaper prices on drugs, often beating your insurance company’s pricing.

Other secret ways to save? Picking up one prescription where you grocery shop, another might be cheaper at the drug store, and yet another at a big box chain. The app does the leg work for you, wherever you live, work or shop.

Ohri explained that, “On top of that you are going to get our discount because of our group volume.  We’ve done all the negotiating with pharmacies.”

And with these negotiations, we all come out healthier winners.

See the entire story on Pix11.com.

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pill boxes medication adherence

If your doctor has prescribed a medication for you, you want to be sure you’re getting the most benefit from that drug. Medication adherence is important to get the most benefit from the medications used to treat your condition. The causes of non-adherence, when a patient either accidentally or knowingly does not take medications as prescribed, can be complex. Non-adherence is often the result of cost; patients who simply can’t afford their medications. However, good habits and a good understanding of the medication can also be a big part of adherence, and can help you stick to your medication schedule.

Medication Adherence

World Health Organization defined adherence as “the extent to which a person’s behavior – taking medication, following a diet, and/or executing lifestyle changes, corresponds with agreed recommendations from a health care provider.” The concept that healthcare professionals manage medical conditions is true only in case of hospitalized patients. The bottom line is, medications don’t work in patients who don’t take them, or don’t take them as prescribed.

In an outpatient setting, the healthcare professionals’ role is limited to providing products (medications and/or monitoring devices) and educational tools. Taking medications, on time and properly, is left up to the patient or their in-home caregiver. There are several techniques to help you remember to take your medications as prescribed and manage their own medical condition. As the patient, you have the ultimate control for safe and effective treatment.

Two Steps to Medication Adherence
Adherence to medication can be achieved in two simple steps; understanding and behavior changes. Understanding includes knowledge of your medical condition and how your prescribed medication can help to manage it. Here are a few helpful websites:

  1. http://www.patienteducationcenter.org/ – The health-related content on the website is provided by Harvard Medical School. Medical conditions are listed alphabetically from A to Z.
  2. https://medlineplus.gov/ – Produced by the National Library of Medicine, provides reliable information on medical conditions, drugs, herbs, and supplements.
  3. https://www.wellrx.com/ – ScriptSave® WellRx allows you to search for the lowest prices on prescription medications at nearby pharmacies, and provides overviews of the medications. Our Ask a Pharmacist phone line lets you talk to a pharmacist about prescription medicines, dosing, or medication interaction questions. Registered members have access to a free suite of personal wellness tools in the Medicine Chest, including:
  • Ask a Pharmacist
  • Pill Reminders
  • Refill Reminders
  • Medication Information (in both English and Spanish)
  • Medication Videos
  • Mood-tracking (to review side effects, etc.)
  • Price-check and Pharmacy Locator

Behavioral changes mean finding ways to stay on track with your medication schedule. Finding the right tool or a combination of methods that fit best your lifestyle is key to medication adherence. Here are some ways to stay on track:

  1. Integrate your medication to your daily routine, such as brushing your teeth or watching your favorite TV show.
  2. Set one/multiple daily alarm using a clock, mobile phone, or computer.
  3. Ask a family member and/or friend give you a call remainder.
  4. Pill boxes are another way to organize your scheduled medications. Pill boxes are available in different forms that allow you/your caregiver to fill them daily, weekly, or even monthly.
  5. Medication charts can be developed by own or with the help of a healthcare professional. Keep an updated chart with medication names, dose, when you take them, and what are you taking them for. You can refer to the chart if you get confused with your medications.
  6. Plan ahead for medication refills and mark a calendar to make sure you always have your medication when necessary.
  7. If you have a smart phone, the free ScriptSave WellRx app can be used to remind you to take your medications, refill your medications, and track how the medications make you feel.

We hope these tips on medication adherence have helped. Download our free app from the iOS app store or the Google Play Store, and get registered to take advantage of our free medication adherence tools. If you’re struggling to afford your medications, visit www.WellRx.com to compare the cash price at pharmacies near you. You may find prices lower than your insurance co-pay!


For the best Rx price on
prescription medications,
visit www.WellRx.com.
Compare prices at more than
62,000 pharmacies nationwide.

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Zollinger-Ellison syndrome - stomach image

by Derek Matlock, PharmD

What is Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome?

Do you suffer from Zollinger-Ellison syndrome (ZES)? If so, you may be in rare company. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Zollinger-Ellison syndrome is a rare disorder. It occurs in about one in every 1 million people. Normally, when we eat, our body releases a hormone called gastrin, which tells your stomach to make acid to help break down foods and liquids. For patients with ZES, this mechanism is disrupted by tumors or “gastrinomas.” These tumors form in the pancreas or upper small intestine and secrete abnormally large amounts of gastrin from tumors, resulting in peptic ulcers to be formed.

It Might Be Your Genes

Some people with Zollinger-Ellison syndrome may go undiagnosed as the disorder is rare and its cause is not clear. In 75% of cases, ZES is sporadic or random, whereas in 25% it is associated with MEN 1, an inherited condition characterized by pancreatic endocrine tumors, pituitary tumors, and hyperparathyroidism.  Therefore, your doctor may perform a thorough medical and family history to help diagnose ZES. Additional tests may include endoscopy or various imaging and blood tests. They may even measure the amount of acid in your stomach. For patients with sporadic ZES, the most common symptom is abdominal pain. While patients with the inherited form of ZES mostly complain of diarrhea. Other symptoms include, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, stomach bleeding, and weight loss.

Managing Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome

Currently, the goal of managing ZES is to limit complications of the disorder by suppressing acid secretions. Thus, the main medications used in ZES are proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs, like omeprazole (Prilosec®) or pantoprazole (Protonix®), prescribed at high doses. For patients who do not respond to treatment with PPIs, octreotide is used, which stops the secretion of gastrin, the hormone that tells our body to secrete acid for food breakdown. Currently, the only cure for ZES is surgical removal of the tumor or tumors, but this may not be an option in cases where the tumors have spread to other parts of the body. In that case, chemotherapy with medications like streptozotocin, 5-fluorouracil, and doxorubicin are used to shrink tumors.

Zollinger-Ellison syndrome is a rare disorder that may be suspected in patients with multiple or repeat peptic ulcers. Currently, medications like proton pump inhibitors are the main treatment option, while surgery and chemotherapy are options in certain patients. Remember, when taking proton pump inhibitors, they are best taken 30-60 minutes before a meal and may also come with their own unfavorable side effects. Be sure to talk to your doctor or pharmacist about what can be done to best optimize your treatment options for ZES.

Resources:

  1. Medscape: Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome
  2. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome
  3. UpToDate: Management and Prognosis of the Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome

For the best prescription savings
on medications,
visit www.WellRx.com.
Compare prices at more than
62,000 pharmacies nationwide.

 

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Doctor speaking to patient about medications

TUCSON, AZ–(Marketwired – Aug 9, 2017) – VUCA Health announced today that ScriptSave, a provider of prescription savings solutions and decision support tools helping close the gaps in prescription coverage, will employ its on-demand medication video library to improve medication information and drive better care outcomes for ScriptSave WellRx members.

ScriptSave’s prescription savings program, along with VUCA’s innovative video service, will work together to increase prescription medication adherence by providing patient education in an easy to consume format, thus improving care while enhancing and simplifying the member experience.

Improving Medication Adherence

“It is well documented that two of the key pillars for medication adherence are providing access to affordable medications and the information they need to feel empowered about taking them,” said Shawn Ohri, Vice President, Business Development, ScriptSave. “By implementing VUCA’s on-demand video library, our members can receive accurate health information, in a format that is easy to understand and accessible anytime, anywhere.”

In partnering with VUCA, ScriptSave WellRx members will have access to a robust library of prescription-specific video briefings that deliver information on top-prescribed medications, including proper usage, expected benefits and potential side effects. The videos, available in English and Spanish, are integrated into the ScriptSave WellRx mobile app and website.

“VUCA’s innovative visual education paired with the latest advances in technology is helping individuals across the United States understand how to practice safe administration of their prescription medication,” said VUCA Health CEO David Medvedeff, PharmD, MBA. “By coupling this service with applications like ScriptSave WellRx, members can instantly access their medication information and leverage valuable resources to enhance their overall medication experience.”

About ScriptSave

For more than two decades, ScriptSave has been closing the gaps in healthcare and prescription coverage with innovative savings programs, like ScriptSave WellRx, for the uninsured, under-insured, and insured. Pharmacies, employers, health plans, and other organizations across the nation rely on ScriptSave to deliver prescription savings to their members and customers — yielding $1.3 billion in consumer savings in 2016 alone.

ScriptSave WellRx is recognized and approved by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy® (NABP®). Our pharmacy recognition lets consumers know that ScriptSave WellRx meets standards set by a global coalition that includes International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) and NABP, which has supported the United States boards of pharmacy in their goal of protecting the public health since 1904.

ScriptSave is a member of the MedImpact, Inc. family of companies. For more information, visit www.wellrx.com. Follow us: @SSWellRx (Twitter), Scriptsavewellrx (Facebook).

About VUCA Health

Based in Lake Mary, Fla., VUCA Health (www.vucahealth.com) provides a gateway to patient engagement that serves as an on-demand extension of pharmacists and other healthcare providers. The company’s MedsOnCue solution leverages advanced mobile, web and on-demand video and communication technologies to deliver trusted patient information that enhances the medication use process. It offers a convenient and cost-effective way for clients to provide on-demand patient medication information and strengthen customer connections with video briefings, web messaging, reminders and alerts and a host of other customizable services that extend and enhance the patient relationship.

Contact Information

You can find the original press release here.


For the best prescription savings
on medications,
visit www.WellRx.com.
Compare prices at more than
62,000 pharmacies nationwide.

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Non-adherence not an option image

  • We think so … and we’ve found others who agree
  • We’ve also released LOTS of tools to help

At ScriptSave WellRx, we’ve lost count of the number of studies and surveys presented that show just how close the relationship is between high out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs and the rate of prescription abandonment or non-adherence.

It’s one of the core reasons we do what we do – to fill gaps in prescription coverage, in an effort to make medications more affordable to those who struggle in the face of high deductibles, copays and out-of-pocket costs.

Rather than rehashing another set of adherence survey results (if you’re reading this, you probably understand adherence all too well), we have decided to share some first-hand insights to the importance of medication adherence (and some of the related struggles) from a handful of everyday patients.

Adherence matters, and these patients agree. You can read for yourselves the accounts of these patient advocates, as they tell their own stories, in their own words, about why prescription adherence it so vital.

THEN, once you’ve heard these first-hand accounts, we’ve included details of some free tools that we provide to help patients stay adherent. The ScriptSave WellRx program is so much more than just another prescription savings card. Our members are given access (at NO COST) to many adherence-based tools in addition to our fast, easy, free price-check tool. More details below.

Behavioral Health

The first account is from Gabe Howard. Gabe is an advocate for mental health issues and he lives with bipolar and anxiety disorders. As he will attest, life without his psychiatric medications can lead down some pretty dark roads. Read more at …

“Is High Cost Preventing Access to Psychiatric Medication?” – click here

(…and Gabe also posted a short video on this topic via his Facebook feed. You can watch it here – it’s less than 2mins)

Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD)

Next up is Barby Ingle. Barbie is a minor celebrity in her own right, but she also deals with chronic pain. Read her take on the idea of non-adherence at …

“Free Programs That Help Pay for Prescription Drugs” – click here

Living with Lupus

Then we have Charlotta Norgaard. Charlotta’s daily struggle includes her fight with Lupus, which led her to set up the Lupus Friends & Family Foundation. Read what she has to say about the mere suggestion of non-adherence in here world…

“Prescription Adherence – and why it matters” – click here

Migraine Sufferer

Finally, there’s Sarah Hackley. Sarah’s insights into the topic of non-adherence will give an idea as to what it’s like to be a prisoner of migraines when the budget doesn’t quite stretch far enough to pick up a new prescription for a non-covered drug. Read about her struggles in …

“Affording Prescriptions When You’re Chronically Ill” – click here

Tools to Help with Medication Adherence

It’s a simple fact: drugs don’t work in patients who don’t take them. The causes of non-adherence, when a patient either accidentally or knowingly does not take medications as prescribed, can be complex. As we’ve already addressed in this blog post, non-adherence is often the result of cost; patients who simply can’t afford their medications. However, good habits and a good understanding of the medication can also be a big part of adherence.

With this in mind, we created the Medicine Chest. Registered ScriptSave WellRx members have free access to a complete suite of tools and resources, including:

  • Ask a Pharmacist
  • Pill Reminders
  • Refill Reminders
  • Medication Info (in both English and Spanish)
  • Medication Videos
  • Mood-tracking (to review side effects, etc.)
  • Price-check and Pharmacy Locator

Plus, registered members can connect directly to their pharmacies, like CVS or Walgreen’s, to automatically import their existing prescription information!

We hope these first-hand accounts on the importance of medication adherence have helped. Download our free app from the iOS app store or the Google Play Store, and get registered to take advantage of our free medication adherence tools. If you’re struggling to afford your medications, visit www.WellRx.com to compare the cash price at pharmacies near you. You may find prices lower than your insurance co-pay!

Best U.S. Prescription Savings image

A ScriptSave WellRx Pharmacy Price Comparison Across the US

Jul 26, 2017 – (Newswire) The prescription discount program, ScriptSave WellRx, has just completed a national price analysis of the biggest pharmacies, grocers, and retail chains, trying to uncover who has the lowest prices when it comes to prescription drugs.

Their data analysts looked at every national retail chain pharmacy in the country. Large discount retailers, like Walmart and Costco; grocery stores, like Albertson’s and Safeway; drug stores like Walgreen’s/Duane Reade and CVS were all included in this computer-based analysis.

ScriptSave WellRx discovered prices for some prescription drugs varied by more than 300 percent in the same neighborhood. For more expensive prescriptions, that’s a price fluctuation of more than $300.

Which pharmacies have the best prescription medication prices?

ScriptSave WellRx negotiates medication prices in bulk with pharmacies, so they have an insider view of how prescription drugs are priced.

In 2017, researchers with ScriptSave WellRx compared prices for some of the most popular prescription drugs sold in the U.S.

This analysis found the price for the cholesterol drug, rosuvastatin (generic version of Crestor), varied from $16 to $106, depending on the pharmacy being used.

Celecoxib (generic Celebrex), an anti-inflammatory drug, ranged from $22 to $96, and the sleep medication, Lunesta, was $24 to $137 at different pharmacy locations.

The allergy drug, Flonase, was $14 to $21. Other popular drugs showed similar price disparities.

Why do prices for prescription drugs vary so much?

The Vice President of Product for ScriptSave WellRx, Shawn Ohri, says there are multiple factors that determine how pharmacies price the same prescription drug. Ohri compares it to the neighborhood gas station. Prices for the same product can vary immensely even on the same corner.

“The prescription drug industry is a complicated business with many factors that influence how a prescription drug is priced,” Ohri said. “Grocery stores, drug stores and big box retailers all have different overhead and pricing strategies that determine how corporate prices their prescriptions. It really does pay to shop around. We’ve created WellRx as a tool to allow customers to do that.”

Free Mobile App Reveals Prices at Local Pharmacy

In the past, consumers had no way of comparing prices for their prescription other than calling around and asking for a quote. Now, consumers can find the lowest price for their prescription by downloading the free mobile app, ScriptSave WellRx.

The company, based in Tucson, Arizona, has compiled a proprietary pricing database and it is now sharing that information with the public via their website and their free mobile app.

ScriptSave WellRx is consumer friendly. Users type in their zip code and the name of their prescription drug. The mobile app then reveals the prices for that drug at every nearby pharmacy. Consumers need to show their ScriptSave WellRx mobile app or discount card to get the lowest price at the pharmacy.

“Last year, ScriptSave helped customers save more than $1.3 billion through our innovative pharmacy savings programs,” said Ohri. “As healthcare costs continue to rise and consumers become responsible for more out-of-pocket costs for their healthcare, it will become more important to shop around for the best price. Our goal is to keep customers healthy, while also bringing more pricing transparency to this industry.”

Ohri says on average consumers can expect to save 45 percent and in some cases more than 80 percent on their prescription costs with the ScriptSave WellRx app.

Consumers can download the free ScriptSave WellRx’s free mobile app (for iPhone and Android) and visit their website for more information.

WellRx is also offered to groups, including employers, health plans, insurers, and other affinity organizations.

 

 

Press Contact:

Mark Macias
​Email: mmm@maciaspr.com or 646-770-0541

 

You can find the original ScriptSave WellRx press release here.


For the best Rx price on
prescription medications,
visit www.WellRx.com.
Compare prices at more than
62,000 pharmacies nationwide.

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Behavioral health medications for anxiety or depression - image

Jenny Bingham, PharmD
University of Arizona College of Pharmacy

There are a number of mental conditions that shape mood and behavior. Any condition that affects a person’s thinking, feeling or mood, falls into a medical classification of Behavioral Health.  Such conditions may affect someone’s ability to relate to others, or maintain reasonable function every day. Each person may have different experiences, even if they have the same diagnosis as someone else.

Depression is the most common behavioral health condition in the general population1. Without treatment, depression can lead to decreased quality of life2, increased suicidal thoughts, and overall worsened health outcomes. The most common method of treating depression is to target serotonin and how the body uses it.  Serotonin regulates mood and ultimately is what makes you feel happy. When we have low serotonin levels, you can feel depressed or anxious. Antidepressants each have their own unique mechanism of action that are specific to certain neurotransmitters in the brain.

Anxiety can affect our ability to function due to excessive worry. Without treatment, anxiety can also lead to a worsened quality of life and can even be debilitating for some patients3. Anxiolytics are the medication class used to treat anxiety. The most common method of treating anxiety is to target serotonin and/or norepinephrine.  Norepinephrine is responsible for motor action, cognition, the body’s alert system, and feeling energetic.  When we have low norepinephrine, it is harder to cope with every day stressors and things that are beyond our control.

How do these medications work?  

These medications are often classified as reuptake inhibitors. They target the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine, to name a few.  Medications prevent the body from recycling these neurotransmitters. By preventing them from being recycled too soon, it allows the body a better chance to use them to improve mood and/or relieve anxiety.

What can you do to make them work better for you?

We know that the body needs certain building blocks to make serotonin and norepinephrine. An important concept to remember is that no matter how many medications are prescribes to treat these conditions, they don’t stand a chance at being effective without the right precursors; an interesting concept in today’s world. The majority with these conditions take more than one medication.

Step 1: What is your protein source?

The greatest building blocks for serotonin are things that you might already have in your kitchen.

Complete proteins are the main precursor for tryptophan, which is later turned into serotonin. You might think that tryptophan only comes from turkey on Thanksgiving, but did you know that you can also get it from eating beef, venison, buffalo, pork, fish, shellfish, cheese, cottage cheese, milk, yogurt, and eggs? 

The building blocks for norepinephrine are also found in your kitchen.

In addition to eating complete proteins, it’s also important to eat incomplete proteins as well. You can find these in nuts, grains, beans, legumes, and soy.

Step 2: What else is included on your meal plan?

When we think about serotonin building blocks, key vitamins play an important role as well.

  • Vitamin B6. Great nutritional sources of this vitamin are found in whole grains, vegetables, and nuts.
  • Vitamin B12. This vitamin is found in meats, fish, liver, and milk.
  • Folic acid and Vitamin D3 are often found in fortified foods.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids are found in fish, dairy, and grains.

Step 3: Don’t forget about your supplements and vitamins.

Over-the-counter supplements can help you fulfill your dietary need of the vitamins mentioned above. But, there is a caveat.  Did you know that you can actually take “too much” of a vitamin? When in doubt always review your supplements and medications with your pharmacist for safe use.

As a patient, take comfort knowing that you can control how well your medications work for you. You are the rate limiting factor in the equation. These simple modifications can make a world of difference with managing depression and anxiety. After all, the best investment you’ll ever make is in yourself.

References:

  1. Kessler RC, Ormel J, Petukhova M, et al. Development of lifetime comorbidity in the World Health Organization world mental health surveys. Arch Gen Psychiatry 2011; 68:90.
  2. Daly EJ, Trivedi MH, Wisniewski SR, et al. Health-related quality of life in depression: a STAR*D report. Ann Clin Psychiatry 2010; 22:43. 
  3. Kessler RC, Chiu WT, Demler O, et al. Prevalence, severity, and comorbidity of 12-month DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Arch Gen Psychiatry 2005; 62:617.

For the best Rx price on prescription
depression or anxiety medications,
visit www.WellRx.com.

Compare prices at more than
62,000 pharmacies nationwide.

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Is your blood pressure too high?

by Rick Lasica, PharmD
Post-Graduate Year 1 Resident

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, affects nearly 1 in every 3 adults in the United States. Hypertension is often referred to as the “silent killer,”  because for the most part, hypertension doesn’t have any warning signs or symptoms. You might not even know you have it. If left untreated, hypertension increases your risk for heart disease and stroke, two of the leading causes of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). So when is high blood pressure too high?

Blood Pressure by the Numbers

Blood pressure is reported as two numbers: systolic blood pressure (top number) and diastolic blood pressure (bottom number). Systolic pressure is the pressure of your blood against the walls of your heart when it beats, while diastolic pressure is when it rests (between beats). Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 and pre-hypertension (the range before an actual diagnosis of hypertension) is between 120-139 for the top number and 80-89 for the bottom number. A consistent blood pressure reading of 140/90 or greater means you have hypertension.

Preventing and Treating Hypertension

Luckily, there are many ways to prevent and treat hypertension. Lifestyle factors such as smoking tobacco, eating foods high in sodium, not exercising enough, being obese, and drinking alcohol, all increase the likelihood of developing hypertension. These are manageable risk factors that should be minimized or avoided. If all of these lifestyle factors for hypertension are modified in a positive manner and your blood pressure is still high, your doctor might start you on a medication to help it stay controlled. There are several classes of hypertension medications, all of which work differently in the body. Each class of medications works differently to lower your blood pressure, and has unique side effects you should be aware of. Your doctor or pharmacist can discuss these with you.

Common High Blood Pressure Medications

The angiotensin II receptor blocker Valsartan (Diovan) is one of the top high blood pressure medications, followed by the beta blocker Metoprolol Hydrocholorothiazide (Lopressor HCT), Olmesartan (Benicar), and Olmesartan and HCTZ (Benicar HCT).

Other frequently prescribed high blood pressure medications are the ACE inhibitor, Lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril), Amlodipine besylate (Norvasc), a calcium channel blocker, and the generic diureticHydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ).

See Your Doctor for High Blood Pressure

It’s important to see your healthcare provider regularly so that they can monitor your blood pressure. Let them know all of the medications you are taking, including anything that doesn’t require a prescription, such as herbals and supplements, since these might be contributing to your high blood pressure. Also, if a new medication to treat your high blood pressure is needed, they will work with you to find a blood pressure medication that doesn’t interact with a medication you might already be taking.

By working with your healthcare provider, you can keep your blood pressure under control to help ensure a long and healthy life!

Resources:

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  2. Mayo Clinic
  3. WebMD

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