In 2018 I wrote “The Costs of Chronic Conditions” highlighting how many of our condition management costs are not recognised by “the system”.
Today, I’m going to look at medication costs in more specific detail, to paint a realistic picture of what happens. Similarly to my article yesterday, I hope family and friends may find this useful in building their understanding of the financial situation the patient in their lives is perhaps dealing with. The details I provide here are simply to paint the landscape. Every patient will be different, but the overall picture is one of many dollars on medications, not all covered by the Concession Card (IF the patient has one). Most of us don’t just take one medication for one condition: as you will see here, we end up taking medications to counteract the actions of other medications. It gets messy. And costly.
I am very concerned that a number of Long Covid patients are going to find themselves in exactly this situation, without a Concession Card.
For ease of calculation and summarisation, in this article the medication prices I quote are rounded up to the nearest whole dollar. E.g. Panadol Osteo is $9.49 where I buy it, in this article I’m citing $10. Prices vary between brands and retailers, I’m using the pricing of the brands I buy.
“But you have a Concession Card, your prescriptions are only $7.30!” I hear people cry. SOME of our prescriptions are only $7.30. Some, by no means all. On top of that many of us need over-the-counter medications. Prime example is the Panadol Osteo mentioned above. Not a prescription medication. $9.49 for 96 tablets. Six tablets a day usually, so that will last 16 days.
While on the topic of pain management, here is a strange anomaly for you. Palexia is a good pain medication that comes in both instant release and slow release. Guess what? The slow release is covered under the Concession Card (CC), the instant release is not. $20 for 20 tablets. I have needed both formulations during my recent “difficulties“. How long does 20 tablets last? Depends on the situation.
Here’s were it starts to get complicated. Pain medications have a well earned reputation for causing constipation. So now, per my gastroenterologist, I need to counteract that by buying Coloxyl and Movicol, both over-the-counter medications. Movicol is $20 for 30 sachets. Coloxyl is $14 for 100 tablets. Pain medications can also cause nausea, hence the Ondansetron (prescription, not covered by CC), although I do suffer nausea from time to time even without pain medication.
If I am taking NSAIDs (non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs e.g. Celebrex) I have to double my Somac (pantoprazole). So while Somac is covered by the CC, now I need to fill the prescription more often resulting in increased cost.
Of the 16 items (a mix of OTC and prescription) listed below, only seven are covered under the CC. Less than half.
|The magic biologic||$7|
|Dymista (nasal spray)||$49|
|Zyrtec (for hayfever)||$30|
There are other things not listed above. The Fess Saline Nasal & Sinus Wash kit was $13. Because of my psoriasis I don’t use soap or typical shampoo. T/Gel shampoo is $15 and Ego Pinetarsol solution is $22.
If I were starting from scratch to get all my “stuff” I would need $653 to buy all the above.
Then there are the unexpected events, such as needing an ultrasound guided steroid shot in a finger recently. When booking, I was told the cost would be $285. I said that’s fine, I’ve reached the Medicare Safety Net Threshold. The staff member did not tell me $115 of that charge was NOT rebateable!
Why am I tacking Saxenda? Because both Prednisolone and Thyroxine can make the patient hungry. Diabetes is a common comorbidity with PsA, so this is preventative, we do not need me developing diabetes. I should clinically be on Ozempic (MUCH cheaper) but there is a shortage as we know.
If a patient is still working and not on a CC, then the prescriptions will be dearer. Yes, there is a PBS Safety Net, but not all medications count towards it – talk to your pharmacist about your specific medications. Non-prescription items like Movicol and Coloxyl do not count towards the Safety Net either.
You or your family member may be on completely different medications and OTC products, but the overall picture is likely to be very similar. Lots of dollars for lots of items.
The picture above does not have everything in it, I just grabbed enough packets to populate a photo! In my forties, had you asked me for a Panadol, I probably would not have had any in the house. How times change.
I only have me to worry about. What of a young mother with my conditions? Finding those dollars could be very difficult. That patient may skip medications in order to feed her children. We need to improve our support of chronically ill patients, as I discuss in “Will Society Adapt? When? How?“
Footnote: In this article I have NOT addressed the issue of very expensive medications that are not subsidied under the PBS at all. Years ago a girlfriend of mine was spending $3,000 every six weeks for an infusion. She campaigned to get that medication onto the PBS, but by the time that happened, her savings were virtually non-existent.