Medications are almost never the only recommendation in a person’s treatment plan, which might include lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise; learning to manage stress differently; or therapy.  However, when medications are prescribed, it is because they are considered an important element toward improving your health.

If you don’t take the medications as prescribed you may not achieve recovery as quickly or as fully as you could, whether you have pneumonia or depression, diabetes or anxiety.  Cost and access to medications are important reasons why approximately 50% of patients do not take their medications as prescribed.

The first step is to be sure you discuss your concerns with the doctor when agreeing to a medication treatment plan.  Costs and copays for brand name (patented) medications are usually significantly higher than generic alternatives.  Be aware that just because a medication is “newer”, meaning it has been released to the market recently, does not mean it is better than “older” medications.

If you have no insurance, or can’t afford your share of the cost of medications, there are several ways to get help.  First, make sure you have applied for benefits such as State plans (Michigan Medicaid and Healthy Michigan), federal plans (Medicare), etc.

Medicare beneficiaries with limited income may qualify for the low-income subsidy that helps pay for Medicare Part D prescription costs, including the monthly premium, deductible, coinsurance and copays.

Most pharmaceutical companies with patented/brand name medications have patient assistance programs that are typically based on income or condition/diagnosis.

There are many drug discount card programs, including state-sponsored programs such as MiRx Card.  Also, many pharmacies offer low or no cost medications.  For example, $4 Sam’s Club program, or Meijer’s free antibiotics program.  The medications available for these programs are specific so you’ll need to work with your doctor to make sure they prescribe medications from the list.

A couple of good websites that have this information available are Partnership for Prescription Assistance www.pparx.org and NeedyMeds www.needymeds.org

However, do NOT buy prescription medications online.  A legal, reputable pharmacy requires a legitimate prescription for medications.  There are many illegal sources of medications online that can be dangerous, or may be looking to steal your money and identity!

Dr. Carmen McIntyre is the Chief Medical Officer at Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority. If you have a question for Dr. McIntyre, please submit it to AskTheDr@dwmha.com

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