As prescription costs rise, groups try to help patients navigate complex system

6 months 6 days 1 hour ago Thursday, February 09 2017 Feb 9, 2017 Thursday, February 09, 2017 6:47:00 PM CST February 09, 2017 in News
By: Brittany Pieper, KOMU 8 Anchor
loading

COLUMBIA - Prescription drug prices in America have increased about 10 percent a year for the last few years according to data from Truvaris, a healthcare data company. that increase has put a financial burden on many patients in mid-Missouri.

"It (cost) is the most common cause for people to not take their prescription drugs," said Chris Hartigan, a nurse practitioner at the Family Health Center of Boone County. "If you have a life saving medicine for diabetes or hypertension and it's too expensive, people will forgo that for food."

Bruce Burkett has devoted his life to running a Columbia based group called the Hep C Alliance. He's driven all over the state of Missouri to test people for Hepatitis C free of charge. Burkett, a former drug user, discovered he had the disease back in the 80s and had to undergo years of experimental treatments before he was cured.

"We go to a lot of drug and alcohol treatment centers," said Burkett. "We do health fairs where we go talk to people, and we tell them what Hep C is."

It's a blood-borne virus that effects the liver. People who have it often don't show symptoms for years or decades, but once they do it can be deadly if not treated. Today, companies have developed drugs to treat the disease with high success rates and few side effects, but the price tag is overwhelming. It's one of the most extreme examples of how high prescription drug costs in America have gone.

"There's about six of them on the market right now. They're all running about 70-90 thousand dollars as far as whole sale price," Burkett said, though he also added he doesn't know of anyone who has actually paid that price. Medicaid, insurance or other patient assistance programs help with the cost, but he has heard of people paying thousands of dollars out of pocket for the 12 week treatment.

"There's a lot of hurdles whether you have insurance or not because quite often the first time you apply and your doctor gives you your prescription, insurance is going to deny it because they don't want to pay the big dollars. So you have to go through the appeals process," he explained.

Burkett has an interesting relationship with the drug companies. They fund more than half of his group's budget. He says they support him testing people for Hepatitis C because if people know they have it, they want the drugs to clear the infection before they start to develop symptoms.

"It's a two way street. They're helping us, they're helping the people, but they're making aprofit as well," Burkett said of the money drug companies give to his group.

While he takes thier money, he also vocally disagrees with them, "They should not be charging anywhere near what they're charging... In Egypt, you can get it for $900. In India, you can get it for $900. This is Harvoni. That's what it should be here."

KOMU 8 contacted Gilead, the company that manufactures Harvoni to ask about Burkett's claim. Mark Snyder, the company's public affairs director, responded with a statement saying, "Gilead appreciates the vital importance of making healthcare affordable for all Americans and provides public and private payers substantial discounts to ensure patients receive the treatments they need, regardless of what resources they have. Gilead maintains its own Support Path program that provides co-pay assistance to eligible insured individuals and provides therapies at no charge to qualified uninsured individuals. We stand behind the pricing of our therapies. We are proud of the benefit they bring to patients and the significant value they represent to payers, providers, and our entire healthcare system."

Burkett has worked with the Fair Pricing Coallition to try and convince companies to lower prices, but he thinks it will take new laws to make significant change. "I hate to say more regulation, but we need some more regulation on what they can charge."

Law makers in both parties have discussed the need for more prescription drug regulation, including President Trump, but there's nothing concrete to regulate prices at this time.

Hartigan, who works with many lower income patients agrees more regulation is needed. "It's very complex. There's been a lot of debate in Congress about plans that would kind of expose some of the backroom deals and how the whole pricing structure works, but that's a little ways off. For now, people just have trouble trying to make sense of the whole thing."

While most drugs do not cost as much as those used to treat Hepatits C, patients struggle with the costs of many different drugs. The Family Health Center of Boone County has a limited medication assistance program and a staff member whose full time job is to help patients navigate the prescription pricing system. Websites like Needy Meds and patient advocacy groups like Patient Advocate Network and Patient Advocate Foundation help in similar ways.

Hartigan suggests patients call around to pharmacies to compare prices, be ready to deal with insurance glitches and appeals, communicate with their doctor about alternative or generic drugs and not be afraid to ask for help.

More News

Grid
List
MARSHFIELD (AP) — A search warrant that has been unsealed recently gives details about what authorities are calling a murder-suicide... More >>
24 minutes ago Thursday, August 17 2017 Aug 17, 2017 Thursday, August 17, 2017 12:06:43 PM CDT August 17, 2017 in News
COLUMBIA — Columbia Police officers arrested one person and are looking for a second in connection with a home invasion... More >>
2 hours ago Thursday, August 17 2017 Aug 17, 2017 Thursday, August 17, 2017 9:53:00 AM CDT August 17, 2017 in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union alleges in a lawsuit that a suburban St. Louis police department... More >>
4 hours ago Thursday, August 17 2017 Aug 17, 2017 Thursday, August 17, 2017 8:25:00 AM CDT August 17, 2017 in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A 19-year-old man has been acquitted of killing and attempting to rob a suburban St. Louis... More >>
4 hours ago Thursday, August 17 2017 Aug 17, 2017 Thursday, August 17, 2017 8:18:00 AM CDT August 17, 2017 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - About 300 incoming freshmen at Lincoln University will be busy doing community service around town Thursday morning.... More >>
4 hours ago Thursday, August 17 2017 Aug 17, 2017 Thursday, August 17, 2017 8:17:00 AM CDT August 17, 2017 in News
CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri man has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for fatally beating his uncle... More >>
4 hours ago Thursday, August 17 2017 Aug 17, 2017 Thursday, August 17, 2017 8:13:00 AM CDT August 17, 2017 in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Authorities say one woman is dead and three men are hurt after people in a car... More >>
4 hours ago Thursday, August 17 2017 Aug 17, 2017 Thursday, August 17, 2017 8:08:39 AM CDT August 17, 2017 in News
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A California woman awaits sentencing and a New Hampshire man is prison-bound for their roles... More >>
4 hours ago Thursday, August 17 2017 Aug 17, 2017 Thursday, August 17, 2017 8:02:00 AM CDT August 17, 2017 in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A St. Louis man has been ordered to spend four and a half years in federal... More >>
4 hours ago Thursday, August 17 2017 Aug 17, 2017 Thursday, August 17, 2017 7:56:00 AM CDT August 17, 2017 in News
BELTON, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say human remains found in April in rural northwest Missouri are those of a 17-year-old... More >>
4 hours ago Thursday, August 17 2017 Aug 17, 2017 Thursday, August 17, 2017 7:51:00 AM CDT August 17, 2017 in News
FORSYTH, Mo. (AP) — A man accused of killing a 6-year-old girl in Branson is closer to trial. A... More >>
4 hours ago Thursday, August 17 2017 Aug 17, 2017 Thursday, August 17, 2017 7:44:00 AM CDT August 17, 2017 in News
BRANSON, Mo. (AP) — Administrators of the Silver Dollar City theme park in southwestern Missouri say a new roller coaster... More >>
4 hours ago Thursday, August 17 2017 Aug 17, 2017 Thursday, August 17, 2017 7:40:00 AM CDT August 17, 2017 in News
COLUMBIA - Around one hundred years ago a team of astronomers confirmed Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity using the... More >>
5 hours ago Thursday, August 17 2017 Aug 17, 2017 Thursday, August 17, 2017 7:30:00 AM CDT August 17, 2017 in Eclipse Science
COLUMBIA - KOMU 8 News sat down Wednesday with University of Missouri political science professor Cooper Drury to get an... More >>
15 hours ago Wednesday, August 16 2017 Aug 16, 2017 Wednesday, August 16, 2017 8:36:00 PM CDT August 16, 2017 in News
SEDALIA - The total solar eclipse will attract huge crowds to mid-Missouri, but the last time there was a massive... More >>
16 hours ago Wednesday, August 16 2017 Aug 16, 2017 Wednesday, August 16, 2017 7:35:00 PM CDT August 16, 2017 in News
COLUMBIA - Police released the results of an autopsy investigation following the death of a 4-year-old boy in May, ruling... More >>
20 hours ago Wednesday, August 16 2017 Aug 16, 2017 Wednesday, August 16, 2017 4:15:00 PM CDT August 16, 2017 in Continuous News
COLUMBIA - Local healthcare providers and state representatives met at a town hall Wednesday to discuss fallout from Gov. Eric... More >>
20 hours ago Wednesday, August 16 2017 Aug 16, 2017 Wednesday, August 16, 2017 3:58:00 PM CDT August 16, 2017 in News
COLUMBIA – Ameren Missouri looked to educate the Columbia Fire Department about natural gas and how to find signs of... More >>
21 hours ago Wednesday, August 16 2017 Aug 16, 2017 Wednesday, August 16, 2017 3:18:00 PM CDT August 16, 2017 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 75°
1pm 79°
2pm 83°
3pm 84°
4pm 83°

Select a station to view its upcoming schedule:

Coming Up Next

12:00p
KOMU 8 News @ Noon
12:30p
Inside Edition
1:00p
Days of Our Lives
12:00p
Jerry Springer
1:00p
Maury
2:00p
Judge Alex

Tonight's Schedule

7:00p
The Wall
8:00p
Saturday Night Live
8:30p
Great News
9:00p
The Night Shift
7:00p
Penn & Teller: Fool Us
8:00p
Whose Line Is It Anyway?
8:30p
Whose Line Is It Anyway?
9:00p
KOMU 8 News @ Nine on The CW
9:30p
Seinfeld