Many pharmacies are now offering their patients a thirty day supply of generic medications for the low price of $4. Most think that this is the greatest thing since sliced bread. I know people who were spending $40 to $200 a month or more on prescriptions that are now saving a great deal of money. This savings not only makes most of them very happy but boosts their self image by making them feel like saavy shoppers. On the surface it may seem like a win-win situation. But is the $4 prescription phenonema really an answer to the need for better, more cost efficient pharmacy services?
Let me share a couple of experiences that may seem unrelated to the $4 prescription. This past year I was interviewing website developers and given a number of quotes for setting up my website. Several of them gave me bids and explanations of what they would do for me at very reasonable prices, considerably below others designers I spoke to. But the little voice kept creeping into my head saying “you get what you pay for”. I opted to go with a website developer who was willing to go beyond the basics of building the site; one who was willing to provide their services to me to ensure that I would be able to manage and optimize it as well. I am not only getting a website that I can be proud of but also learning how to use other web based tools to support my business. By doing this my life has been made simpler and I will benefit long term from their advice and support.
Another example that comes to mind is auto repair. I had a car that had clutch problems that needed to be taken care of. I sought out the nearest “shade tree mechanic” type of shop that had the lowest labor charges in town. He installed a new slave cylinder which solved the clutch problem for about two days. I made repeated trips to the mechanic’s shop over the next few weeks finding that he had no long term solution for the problem. I went to another shop and found more knowledgable mechanics who solved the problem the next day. Had I just taken the vehicle to them in the first place my life would have been simpler and it would have cost less money in the long run. I wished that the voice would have reminded me that “you get what you pay for”.
Where am I going with this? Pharmacy services are more than just counting and pouring, licking and sticking the labels that go on the $4 prescription bottles. Ask yourself some of these questions. How much money are you saving buying ten prescriptions a month at $4 each from a pharmacist who fails to tell you how to take them correctly? Does the pharmacist take the time to know your medical condition sufficiently and to listen to your questions and provide information needed to treat your condition? And what of the medications prescribed that are not on the $4 list? Does the pharmacist just charge you the $89.67 price for that prescription or does he take the time to discuss less expensive alternatives with your physician? Do you even have the opportunity to really talk to him when you need to?
Purchasing pharmacy services is really not any different than your other purchases in life. You will usually always “get what you pay for”. Many pharmacies are now understaffed trying to keep businesses profitable selling $4 prescriptions. Their pharmacists are under a great deal of pressure trying to ensure that your prescriptions are ready when you request them. Patients are complaining of long wait times for prescriptions as well as the lack of adequate counceling from the pharmacist. The $4 prescription price provides instant gratification while ignoring the pharmacy services that are truly going to benefit the patient. Remember “you get what you pay for” the next time you are buying your $4 prescription and ask yourself if it’s really worth it in the long run.