Prescription drug prices drive many to black market for medicines – news – metrowest daily news, framingham, ma – framingham, ma ear and tooth pain

NEW YORK — In graduate school, Lacy Mason got insulin from elderly friends who had extra. When a friend’s mother died and left behind a stockpile, she took that, too. Her mother-in-law, a nurse, salvaged samples and half-used vials from her hospital.

As the Trump administration pledges to bring down America’s high and rising drug prices, people like Mason live with the burden of costly medications. Administration officials have proposed ways to increase competition, press middlemen for transparency and limit patients’ costs in Medicare pharmacy plans.

People are underinsured for access to medications that treat chronic illness, said Rena Conti, a health economist and associate professor at University of Chicago, meaning they’re paying full price for drugs they must take regularly. Even for generic drugs, manufacturers can have patents on delivery mechanisms, such as the propellant in an inhaler that limit competition, Conti said.


If there’s no competition, then there’s no pricing pressure.

Mason’s struggle shows how insufficient coverage affects people with chronic ailments. Even with coupons, she said a one-month supply of the insulin she needs costs about $900 at the pharmacy. The price of insulin tripled between 2002 and 2013.

In April 2011, toward the end of her senior year of high school in Orlando, Mason collapsed and woke up in a hospital bed after a month of weight loss, fatigue, and constant hunger and thirst. She learned she had Type 1 diabetes. After five days, Mason was ready to be discharged, but couldn’t go home without medication. Her family had no insurance. Mason told the nurse she’d just pay for it.

Mason enrolled in Medicaid, which covered her until she turned 21. She stored enough insulin while she was covered to stretch halfway through a three-year graduate program in physical therapy at Mercer University in Atlanta. She stopped seeing her endocrinologist and rationed doses. She began performing at children’s parties as a princess or clown to make money in case she needed medicine.

Health plans should cover the cost of medicines that control chronic diseases like diabetes, because the consequences if patients stop treatment can be serious and ultimately more expensive to treat, said Conti, the University of Chicago economist.

Sharon Eicher, a 50-year-old adjunct professor in Wichita, Kansas, stopped taking the cholesterol drug Livalo after she changed insurers and lost coverage of the drug, which would have cost her nearly $400 a month. Then, she and her husband lost their insurance entirely.

I’ve pretty much done nothing for health maintenance since I lost my insurance, Eicher said. She’s tried eating healthier and walking more, but she says neither helped control her cholesterol levels. We’re in survival mode because we’re not really sure what’s going to happen, Eicher said.

Joan Thayer, a 58-year-old condominium manager in Sebastian, Florida, has asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Her part-time job doesn’t offer health insurance, and she depends on a patient-assistance program to get GlaxoSmithKline’s Breo at no charge. The free doses will run out at end of the year, and a month’s supply costs $300. She asks her doctor for samples at every visit.

Alicia Kelsey, 56, has been uninsured since she lost her county bookkeeping job in 2015. When she developed flu-like symptoms in January, she was determined to avoid a costly visit to a doctor. Employees at the livestock feed store near her Jefferson, Ga., home mentioned to her several years ago that fish antibiotics contained amoxicillin. When she got sick, she picked up a 60-capsule bottle for $20.

But her symptoms worsened, and Kelsey’s husband pleaded with her to see a doctor. When she did, she learned that a sinus infection had progressed into bronchitis and an ear infection. She got a stronger antibiotic and cough medicine, which with the visit with the doctor cost more than $300.