HomebusinesshealthAwards and RecognitionbusinesshealthResourcesBlog
The Callery Group
About UsOur ServicesContact Us

A Healthy Dose of Information
5 questions for your pharmacist that might save your drug plan and your wallet

It's time to have a heart-to-heart talk with your pharmacist.

Few factors pose a bigger threat to employee benefits plans than the ever-rising cost of pharmaceuticals. If prices grow too high, a drug plan may not be sustainable – and that can force an employer to exclude specific medications, require employees to pay a larger share of drug costs, or simply cancel a plan altogether.

But those who fill the prescriptions can play a key role in the final costs.

Consider asking your pharmacist these 5 questions:

  1. You post your dispensing fees, but what will the final price be? -- I have seen dispensing fees range everywhere from a high of $15 to $3.89, with major retailers using artificially low fees as a way to lure new shoppers into a store. ("Maybe I'll buy a new stereo while I wait for my prescription to be filled ...")

    But the dispensing fee is only one factor to consider in the price of a drug. Every prescription also includes ingredient costs and pharmacy markups, and these fees do not need to be openly displayed.

    The price differences are not simply a matter of greed. Some retailers are able to secure better wholesale prices from manufacturers, while others need to cover steeper overhead costs. And they have all needed to respond to steady cuts in the professional allowances from drug manufacturers.

    Any customer armed with a Drug Identification Number (DIN) and the exact number of milligrams per pill can shop around for a better price. This can be a particularly worthwhile exercise for patients who take ongoing "maintenance" drugs that have to be refilled time and again.

  2. How long will it take to fill this prescription? – There are plenty of ways to pass the time in a drug store. Large retailers offer stations to check blood pressure, aisles filled with groceries and cosmetics, and kiosks for ordering lottery tickets.

    There's nothing wrong with the added choice and convenience, but shoppers may be surprised to learn that at least one major retailer builds a delay into every prescription request, just to give customers the time to browse through the other items.

    The best way to avoid the hidden costs is to come back to pick up the prescription. At the very least, keep an eye on marketing flyers for the real sales rather than being swayed by point-of-purchase displays.

    Customers may not even need to enter a store at all. Significant savings can be realized by asking benefits consultants about reputable central dispensing pharmacies, which can pass along the savings that come with lower overhead and enhanced productivity, yet still offer personalized service and overnight deliveries.

  3. Is there a generic alternative to the brand name drug? – There is a good reason why the patents on new drugs are protected for 20 years. Research and innovation comes at a cost, and it should be rewarded.

    But once approved, generic versions of these brand name drugs can meet the same medical needs at about 1/3 the price.

    In addition to that, many insurance plans will only cover the value of generic medication, except in cases where a brand name drug has been pre-approved because of a patient's unique medical needs. (For example, the patient may be allergic to something in the generic form of the drug.) This leaves the patients who use brand name drugs to pay the difference – on top of the overall percentage they are expected to cover under co-payment agreements.

    Patients can ask pharmacists to contact doctors to see if a less-costly generic drug will meet the same needs.

  4. Are there any therapeutic alternatives? – The affordable pharmaceutical options are not limited to generic drugs. Other therapeutic alternatives may deliver the same results.

    A 90-day supply of Nexium, used to control excess stomach acid, can cost $207. In contrast, a 90-day supply of a therapeutic alternative like Apo-omeprazole might cost a total of $112. And while 90 days of Cymbalata for a major depressive disorder might cost $375, an alternative in the form of Venlafaxine can cost just under $51.

    Pharmacists can contact doctors to discuss the options.

  5. Can you fill the complete prescription? – When taking a maintenance medication to control something like blood pressure or cholesterol, it makes financial sense to order as much of the medication as you can at once. This avoids the extra dispensing fees charged when filling the prescription over multiple visits.

    The opposite strategy applies when taking a drug for the first time. It can make sense to fill a smaller portion of the prescription to try the drug before committing to larger supplies. That way, purchased drugs will not be wasted if the prescription needs to be altered.

Top Tips:

  • Become a smart shopper by looking beyond dispensing fees, and consider the final prices which also include ingredient costs and pharmacy markups.
  • Ask your pharmacist if generic or therapeutic alternatives are available. These drugs can be cheaper than brand name options and still serve the same medical needs.
  • Ask for smaller quantities when trying a drug for the first time (to avoid wasting prescriptions), but larger quantities when taking maintenance medications over the long term (to avoid extra dispensing fees).

Copyright Notice

All rights reserved. All of the content herein is the sole property of the Callery Group, and may not be reproduced, transmitted, or stored in a retrieval system - in whole or in part - without the written permission of the Callery Group. Links to the originating article at www.callerygroup.com are permitted.

The Buzz Bits
Miscellaneous links to interesting benefits information

Introducing Bill Zolis: Ajax-Pickering Board of Trade's new president: Durham Trade and Commerce

Learn more about generic drugs: choosinggenerics.ca

The Changing Drug Landscape - Biologics: the high cost of breakthrough medicine: Empire Life

Employees want vacations, not raises: Canadian HR Reporter (Includes an interview with Bill Zolis, requires subscription to Canadian HR Reporter)

Ignoring adherence drives up drug costs: Small Biz Advisor

Prescription drug prices vary drastically among pharmacies: CTV British Columbia

Community Ethics, Big City Expertise

Subscribe to the Buzz Blog

Blog archive

Unintended Lessons I've learned about Blogging so far

You never know what's going to happen when you click on a link [more]

Drugs, Alcohol and, Oh Yes, Marijuana

Changing times may require all of us to take a long hard look at our drug-and-alcohol policies [more]

Best Tips For Sleeping Well

If you're just not sleeping well, there are some pretty effective things you can do to make it better [more]

Survey Says: Wellness Programs Improve Overall Satisfaction

It seems that employees' satisfaction with wellness programs spills over into satisfaction with their benefits programs and their jobs in general [more]

Changes Coming to Personal Emergency Leave Laws

Amendments to the Employment Standards Act will significantly increase legally mandated employee leaves [more]

The Good News and the Bad News on Diabetes

We keep hearing about a "diabetes epidemic," but there are things we can do now to improve our odds of beating the statistics [more]

Who's Your "Broker" Working For?

In a world of brokers, agents, advisors and consultants, it's important to stay focused on who's really working for you [more]

The Secret to Really Good Workplace Wellness

Workplace wellness is a way to solve a lot of problems before they even come up [more]

Medical Marijuana - More Questions than Answers

A lack of medical consensus makes drug plan coverage of medical marijuana very difficult [more]

Pharmacogenomics Means Better Prescriptions

A simple DNA test can now help pinpoint which drugs are going to work best for you [more]

Why Airplanes Crash

What one successful CEO learned from air crash investigations – and how it all applies to managing any organization [more]

Not A Delicate Subject Anymore...

How to start the conversation about mental health in the workplace [more]

A Look Inside

There's more to this business that we usually talk about... [more]

Bio What-Now?

Get ready for "generic" biologics. [more]

What You Don't Want to Say to Your Doctor

There are some things that you want to explain to your doctor, and some things you really should stay away from. [more]

Your Dentist's Pet Peeve

Why you should know all the ins and outs of your dental insurance plan before you ever lean back in the chair and open wide [more]

About that Credit Card Travel Insurance

It may be of some value, especially if you have no pre-existing conditions, but you really need to read that fine print [more]

Right Drug, Right Time, Right Cost

Why you should work with your doctor, your pharmacist, and your drug plan to make sure you get optimal treatmenty [more]

Big Smiles

A focus on dental plans will ensure that everyone remains happy [more]

Your Doctor Doesn't Know Everything

When it comes to prescriptions, patients need to be part of the conversation [more]

Prescription for Disaster

Advances in pharmaceuticals are threatening your drug plan [more]

Sleep Easy

Conditions like sleep apnea can be treated, ensuring proper rest and productive days [more]

Easy as EAP

Formal support makes a big difference when employees face personal challenges [more]

Well Done

10 ways to develop an effective workplace wellness program [more]

Mind Matters

Businesses can't afford to ignore the mental health of their employees [more]

Brian's Story

Brian Callery is celebrating 40 years in our business. It's a commitment that makes a difference in his clients' businesses [more]

The Benefits to You

The same plans designed to protect employees will also offer advantages to employers [more]

Lawyer Up

There are legal ramifications around changing benefit plans - especially if an employee is being terminated [more]

Travel Trauma

Dream vacations can turn into nightmares when travel insurance claims are denied [more]

Evolution Solution

Evolving benefit plans will meet employee needs and support recruiting and retention efforts [more]

Plan & Predict

How rising paramedical claims, drug reforms, and other trends will affect your workplace benefits [more]

Who Benefits

Education makes the case for workplace benefit plans [more]

Season of Renewal

Important questions to ask your benefits advisor before inking a deal [more]

Preventive Measures

Paramedical services help keep employees healthy, on the job, and productive [more]

A Bounce in Their Step

Canada Rubber Group employees are embracing their new wellness program [more]

Business Benefits

Shandex Group and Indaco Manufacturing discuss the value of evolving employee benefits plans [more]

A New Mindset

Workplaces can't afford to ignore the mental health of employees [more]

Cost Cutters

10 cost-cutting strategies to protect your benefits plan [more]

Safe Travels

12 ways to protect yourself on your next vacation [more]

Breaking News

Learn from the mistakes of an AOL executive when discussing any changes to your benefits plans [more]

Watch the Gaps

Protect against turnover and lost opportunities by recognizing the generation gaps [more]

Generation Next

Generation Y represents the future of your business - and will see workplace benefits plans in a different way [more]

Absent Minded

Employers are paying the price for absenteeism, but it can be controlled [more]

Think Positive

Programs that build positive workplaces make business sense [more]

Back to School

8 important lessons your employees need to learn about benefits plans [more]

Find a Better Broker

6 questions you should ask anyone who wants to sell you a benefits plan [more]

Plan Your ROI

5 ways employee benefits plans can deliver a real Return on Investment [more]

The Benefit of Benefits

3 ways a benefits plan can improve your company's bottom line. [more]

A Healthy Dose of Information

5 questions for your pharmacist that might save your drug plan and your wallet. [more]

Claim Denied

Consider these 8 ways to avoid rejected benefit claims. [more]

Travel Planning

6 questions to ask before assuming you are protected by a group plan's travel insurance. [more]

Biologic Logic

Growing list of biologic drugs could bankrupt poorly protected drug plans. [more]

Smart Shopping

8 shopping habits that will protect your benefits plan. [more]

Tough Medicine

Employees will share more responsibilities and higher costs to sustain their benefits. [more]

Crime Costs

5 scams that could be placing your benefits plan at risk. [more]

A Prescription for Your Drug Plan

Skyrocketing drug prices may be threatening your benefits plan, but generic drugs offer a cure. [more]

Planes, Trains and Travel Insurance

The fine print in your travel insurance may leave you more exposed than you think. [more]

Healthy and Wealthy

5 steps to an employee wellness program that will generate real financial returns. [more]

Avoiding Burnout During Holiday Season

Education and Prevention can help control spiraling benefit costs. [more]

Sweat the Small Stuff

Protect your staff by avoiding these common "paperwork" mistakes by administrators. [more]



Services Personal Services Corporate Services