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

4 months 1 week 5 days ago February 09, 2017 Feb 9, 2017 Thursday, February 09 2017 Thursday, February 09, 2017 6:47:00 PM CST 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
WASHINGTON (AP) - When the justices take the bench Monday for their final week before a summer hiatus, they are... More >>
38 minutes ago June 24, 2017 Jun 24, 2017 Saturday, June 24 2017 Saturday, June 24, 2017 8:18:00 AM CDT in News
BOONVILLE – Residents gathered on Saturday for the 28th Annual Boonville Heritage Days. About 100 members of the community... More >>
4 hours ago June 24, 2017 Jun 24, 2017 Saturday, June 24 2017 Saturday, June 24, 2017 4:38:00 AM CDT in News
COLUMBIA - Police are warning residents about a phone scam. The Columbia Police Department said it has received multiple... More >>
5 hours ago June 24, 2017 Jun 24, 2017 Saturday, June 24 2017 Saturday, June 24, 2017 3:52:00 AM CDT in News
COLUMBIA - MUPD officers gave the "all clear" late Friday night after authorities said they did not find an explosive... More >>
5 hours ago June 24, 2017 Jun 24, 2017 Saturday, June 24 2017 Saturday, June 24, 2017 3:01:00 AM CDT in News
MONITEAU COUNTY - The Moniteau County sheriff denied accusations of the jail being in poor condition following posts on social... More >>
13 hours ago June 23, 2017 Jun 23, 2017 Friday, June 23 2017 Friday, June 23, 2017 7:48:00 PM CDT in Top Stories
JEFFERSON CITY - A Missouri non-profit organization is raising money for veterans in its own unique way, bull riding. ... More >>
13 hours ago June 23, 2017 Jun 23, 2017 Friday, June 23 2017 Friday, June 23, 2017 7:34:00 PM CDT in Top Stories
COLUMBIA- Rep. Chuck Basye, R-Rocheport and Sen. Caleb Rowden, R- Columbia met with dozens of Mid-Missouri parents and children to... More >>
13 hours ago June 23, 2017 Jun 23, 2017 Friday, June 23 2017 Friday, June 23, 2017 7:12:00 PM CDT in Top Stories
COLUMBIA - After residents said they did not want a roundabout, the Columbia Public Works Department has come up with... More >>
13 hours ago June 23, 2017 Jun 23, 2017 Friday, June 23 2017 Friday, June 23, 2017 7:05:00 PM CDT in News
COLUMBIA - More than 200 requests have come in so far in just the twenty-four hours after MU leadership announced... More >>
15 hours ago June 23, 2017 Jun 23, 2017 Friday, June 23 2017 Friday, June 23, 2017 5:13:00 PM CDT in News
COLUMBIA - Pollen is not the only allergen that arrives with the warm summer weather. A specific type of tick... More >>
16 hours ago June 23, 2017 Jun 23, 2017 Friday, June 23 2017 Friday, June 23, 2017 4:36:00 PM CDT in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A former St. Louis County sheriff's deputy faces up to a decade in federal prison now... More >>
16 hours ago June 23, 2017 Jun 23, 2017 Friday, June 23 2017 Friday, June 23, 2017 4:19:00 PM CDT in News
MONITEAU COUNTY - One person was taken into custody after the Moniteau County Sheriff's Office and the Mid-Missouri Drug Task... More >>
16 hours ago June 23, 2017 Jun 23, 2017 Friday, June 23 2017 Friday, June 23, 2017 4:01:00 PM CDT in News
COLUMBIA - The Columbia city council is considering new regulations on payday loan companies and money lending businesses. The... More >>
17 hours ago June 23, 2017 Jun 23, 2017 Friday, June 23 2017 Friday, June 23, 2017 3:49:00 PM CDT in News
COLUMBIA - Columbia College will be giving high school students a chance to earn college credits. The two dual credit... More >>
18 hours ago June 23, 2017 Jun 23, 2017 Friday, June 23 2017 Friday, June 23, 2017 2:43:00 PM CDT in News
JEFFERSON CITY- The Missouri State Highway Patrol celebrated the graduation of 27 troopers in Jefferson City on Friday morning. ... More >>
18 hours ago June 23, 2017 Jun 23, 2017 Friday, June 23 2017 Friday, June 23, 2017 2:31:00 PM CDT in News
MONITEAU COUNTY - A man was taken into custody after the Moniteau County Sheriff's Office and Mid-Missouri Drug Task Force... More >>
19 hours ago June 23, 2017 Jun 23, 2017 Friday, June 23 2017 Friday, June 23, 2017 1:39:00 PM CDT in News
COLUMBIA – Four summer interns work with the city of Columbia to rate the conditions of roads and determine which... More >>
19 hours ago June 23, 2017 Jun 23, 2017 Friday, June 23 2017 Friday, June 23, 2017 1:33:00 PM CDT in News
MONITEAU COUNTY - The Missouri State Highway Patrol is investigating a deadly crash north of Tipton on Wednesday. According... More >>
20 hours ago June 23, 2017 Jun 23, 2017 Friday, June 23 2017 Friday, June 23, 2017 12:40:00 PM CDT in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 65°
9am 68°
10am 71°
11am 72°
12pm 74°

Select a station to view its upcoming schedule:

Coming Up Next

7:00a
Today Weekend
9:00a
KOMU 8 News Today
10:00a
The Voyager with Josh Garcia
8:30a
Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan: Family Edition
9:00a
Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan: Family Edition
9:30a
Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan: Family Edition

Tonight's Schedule

7:00p
Nitro Circus
7:00p
Family Guy
7:30p
Family Guy
8:00p
Bob's Burgers
8:30p
Bob's Burgers
9:00p
KOMU 8 News @ Nine on The CW
9:30p
Seinfeld