The cost of Crohn’s & Colitis is something I think about daily as an IBD patient myself and working with other IBD patients in my private practice. This year especially I’ve been trying to think up solutions for my patients with the growing cost of medications in the US. Especially after learning a while back that my rectal mesalamine enemas were going to cost me $1200 per month! And as I’ve learned, I’m not alone.
In fact a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 23% percent of prescriptions filled through insurance ended up costing more for customers than if they had paid out-of-pocket!
It’s hard to believe that almost 1 in 4 people are overpaying for their medications despite the already exponentially high cost of insurance. It’s becoming increasingly important that as patients we act as our own advocates when it comes to our health. The best place to start advocating for yourself is with your Gastroenterologist. You can ask them for what they suggest doing to lower the cost of medications. In the US, many people find it difficult to afford the rising cost of health care and medications so don’t be afraid to ask for different ways to lower your cost.
Examples of questions you can ask:
What are all the options for medications I have?
What is the generic name of this drug?
Are there financial assistance programs available for this medication?
Although your Gastroenterologist is likely the best and easiest place to get answers on how to lower your prescription cost, you might not find everything you need. If this is the case, or if you just want to know what else is available to ensure you are getting the best prices, below are the three strategies I’ve used personally to lower the cost of medications for myself and those I see in my private practice.
Top 3 strategies for reducing the cost of IBD medications:
Look online for Coupons & Financial Assistance Programs
Did you know up until 2020 your pharmacist couldn’t legally tell you when you are overpaying for a prescription? Something called the “gag order” prevented your pharmacist from openly discussing other less expensive options. While the laws have changed you’ll still likely get more savings if you choose to be your own advocate.
Many medication brands can also offer assistance programs. It’s always a good idea to check for yourself. You can call the manufacturer of your particular medication to see what financial programs or discounts they offer. If the manufacturer of the drug doesn’t have any viable programs, you can search online for coupons online such as:
Negotiate with Insurance
Did you know this is possible? Personally, I didn’t either until I made the call to my insurance. Let your insurance know that you would like to find a way for it to be covered so that you don’t need to cancel your coverage all together. You may need to explain what IBD is, and that the medication is medically necessary.
You can do this even after your coverage has started. Although they will tell you that they can’t make changes unless it’s for severe circumstances. Keep in mind though, your insurance doesn’t want to you leave. They are more likely to make exceptions for coverage as long as you can petition that getting coverage for your medication is crucial.
Remember the number one rule with any negotiation is- be willing to walk away. Even if you plan to keep your insurance for other reasons, stand firm in how important coverage for your medication is. Everytime we advocate for better care for ourselves, we also advocate for those that come after us (other IBD patients).
Integrate Evidence-backed Nutrition Approaches
IBD Patients are Often Left Without Referrals to Dietitians
Are you getting your dietary advice from google or forums? I get it. I’ve been there. As a dietetic student, I knew about the importance of medical nutrition therapy for IBD so I asked my Gastroenterologist for a referral to a Dietitian. I was surprisingly told that diet didn’t matter. That led me to google, forums and advice from random people on the internet offering anecdotal advice.
However, this was over 10 years ago and a lot has changed since then. Now we know a bit more about the how dietary choices impact our gut microbiome and inflammation, as well as tendency towards or away from flares. If you are at all curious about connecting the dots of why dietary choices matter, common mistakes IBD patients make when it comes to nutrition and what’s possible when integrating nutrition- check out my e-books below.
A Solid Nutrition Plan
A solid nutrition approach (not just the foods you eat) can help you reduce your medication cost too! More and more research in the past few years has been showing the incredible value of addition nutrition support to a treatment approach in helping to get you to remission sooner and stay there longer. A solid nutrition approach might include monitoring nutrient deficiencies, supporting safe expansion of the diet, and bringing in other layers of support like prebiotics, probiotics, or other supplements with proven positive impact on IBD.
Often times bringing in evidence supported supplemental approaches to support your IBD remission can be less costly and work well alongside most medications. In my group program and course, I go through all of the basics of IBD nutrition and what you need to know to make better, informed and empowered decisions for yourself. If you are curious about what work together could look like, book a call with me here. I want you to get the care you deserve either with me or someone else.