Caring Currents

Prescription Medications Cost Too Much? Here's What to Do

Last updated: May 20, 2010

One of the most popular discussion topics among family caregivers is the insanely high cost of prescription medications and the failure of Medicare to cover that cost. It's a topic that comes up over and over again, and for good reason. When you can't afford the drugs you need to stay healthy, it's a serious situation.

Now comes new evidence that this crisis is very real, and is affecting more and more of us across the country. According to a report issued this week, manufacturer prices for the brand-name prescription drugs most commonly used by people on Medicare rose 9.7 percent for the year ending in March "” the biggest annual jump since 2002, when the AARP started tracking prices. The price of specialty drugs, such as many used for cancer, rose even more, by 9.2 percent.

In fact, every single drug in the list of the top 25 prescription medications cost more this year than it did the year before.

Here are the top ten, in order of how much the price increased:

  1. Aricept "“ Eisai "“ 13.9%
  2. Plavix "“ Bristol-Myers Squibb "“ 10.5%
  3. Protonix "“ Wyeth "“ 9.3%
  4. Prevacid "“ Takeda "“ 8.1%
  5. Nexium "“ AstraZeneca - 7.4%
  6. Advair "” GlaxoSmithKline "” 7.0%
  7. Fosamax "“ Merck "“ 6.7%
  8. Lipitor (20mg) "“ Pfizer "“ 5.5%
  9. Lipitor (10mg) "“ Pfizer "“ 5.5%
  10. Norvasc "” Pfizer "” 5.0%

By contrast, inflation last year was just 0.3 percent, and the price of the average generic prescription drug actually fell almost 10 percent. What gives?

Well, drug companies want to make money, and when they have a drug that people need to take, it's a guaranteed money-maker.

Perhaps more importantly, though, what can you do to afford the drugs you need?

Reports are filtering out that many older adults are foregoing drugs they need because they can't afford them. Clearly this isn't the answer. has many resources that can help you figure out ways to afford the prescriptions you or your family members need.

Here are three valuable guides to helping you pay for prescriptions:

  1. Our guide to paying for prescription drugs has lots of valuable tips.

  2. Our guide to Medicare Part D spells out the differences in coverage, and explains the gaps and how to navigate them.

  3. Cost-saving tips abound in How to Afford Prescription Drugs Not Covered by a Medicare Part D Plan.

If you want to talk about the rising costs of drugs or share tips on how to afford medications, please share your comments. We're all in the same boat!