Lowering Your Diabetes Costs

Tips from Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs

With approximately 29 million Americans affected by diabetes, or 9.3 percent of the U.S. population, the costs associated with the disease are a growing problem. As of 2012, the total healthcare costs for diagnosed diabetes in the U.S. is roughly $245 billion, an increase of 41 percent since 2007, and according to the American Diabetes Association, a person with diabetes spends on average $13,700 per year on care.

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National Diabetes Month, held every November, is a time of year to raise awareness about diabetes prevention and treatment, and also to discuss how high care costs can undermine efforts to manage diabetes. That’s why we’re co-hosting a webinar with Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs on “Lowering Costs for Type 2 Diabetes Care.”

 

Detecting it early on is both lifesaving as well as money-saving. If you suspect you might have diabetes (read about symptoms here), schedule an appointment with your doctor right away and get tested.  If it turns out you do have diabetes, talk with your doctor about lifestyle changes, such as weight loss and dietary changes that can help you control the disease. Those measures can be as effective medication, especially in the early stages of diabetes and can result in lower long-term medical costs, from, for instance, insulin and other injectable diabetes drugs.

 

If you and your doctor determine that medication makes sense, we recommend trying metformin first. In recent years, a strong medical consensus has emerged in the U.S., Europe, and Australia that most newly diagnosed people with diabetes who need a medicine should first be prescribed this drug. If metformin fails to bring your blood glucose into the normal range, you may need a second drug – either glipizide or glimepiride are good options. These medicines are available as low-cost generics, costing from $4 to $35 a month, and work just as well as newer classes of diabetes drugs. In fact, a number of the newer drugs do not lower blood sugar as well as metformin, glipizide, or glimepiride.

 

For more cost-saving tips on managing diabetes, including saving money on your medications, join our free webinar this Thursday at 2pm Eastern time. Click here to register.

 

- Ginger Skinner

Ginger Skinner is a writer for Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs, a public education project dedicated to helping you talk to your doctor about prescription drugs, and helping you find the most effective and safest drugs for the best price. To stay up to date on Best Buy Drugs news and advice, connect with them on Facebook, Google+, andTwitter, and sign up for the free monthly e-alerts.

Resources for Our Nation’s Caregivers

November 2014 has been proclaimed as National Family Caregivers Month by President Barack Obama to “pay tribute to those who provide for the health and well-being of their family members, friends, and neighbors.” In honor of the over 60 million caregivers in the United States, we are focusing this week’s blog post on resources for these strong and selfless individuals.

Overwhelming Medical Bills

Whether you are taking care of the young or elderly; the ill, injured, or disabled; the difficulty of the work, while rewarding, can be draining. Respite care services (outlined here by StuffSeniorsNeed.com) can help allay the exhaustion and give a well-deserved break to caregivers. In 2006, the Lifespan Respite Care Program was authorized by Congress and has since been implemented in 30 states. Funded by federal grants from the Administration for Community Living and the Administration on Aging, the program has expanded access to respite care for caregivers of patients of all ages.

Caregivers of veterans are eligible for support from the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). In addition to respite care, VA Caregiver Services include home-based healthcare for those in need. Respite services and home-based healthcare are also offered by a number of organizations that can be found by searching for “Respite Care” and/or “Home Care” under Services Provided in our Diagnosis-Based Assistance database, though is not offered for all diagnoses.

Caregivers act as both healthcare provider and advocate for the person in their charge, and can be a financial resource when savings and social security are not an option. While many options for respite or help at home are free or low-cost, there are out-of-pocket expenses even when Medicare or Medicaid covers portions of the cost.  Crowdfunding with HEALfundr can help relieve financial worries for both the patient and caregiver to help cover medically related expenses.

 

Call NeedyMeds’ toll-free helpline (800-503-6897) for information on respite, home care, or other forms of caregiver support. It is important to note, however, that with different eligibility requirements for different programs in different areas of the country, it can be difficult to find a one-stop resource for caregivers. If you are having trouble finding services in your area, contact a local social worker.

Americans Still Taking Risks with Needed Medications

Plus: How to lower your drug costs

Americans take a lot of medicines – and many resort to risky behaviors to afford them. That’s according to a recent national telephone poll by public-education project Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs.  Forty-four percent of Americans take an average of 4.5 prescription drugs; 16 percent say they take 7 or more.

To afford those medications, more than half (57 percent) of those polled reported taking steps in the last year—some of them potentially dangerous—to curb high drug costs. That included not filling a prescription (17 percent), skipping a scheduled dose (14 percent), and taking an expired medication (14 percent).

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The cost of medications affect people’s wallets in other ways, too. Three in 10 (29 percent) reported cutting back on entertainment and dining out; 19 percent spent less on groceries, and 15 percent put off paying other bills in order to afford their prescription drugs. And, people without drug coverage from their insurance were hit the hardest.

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What to do if you face high costs

Don’t wait for your doctor to bring up the cost of medications—he or she may not. Instead,  ask about generics, whether you can stop taking drugs you no longer need, and whether it’s safe to split your pills in half. Also ask about over-the-counter options and nondrug treatments since some may be safer and less expensive over time, and might work just as well as prescription medications. For example, Consumer Reports’ subscribers said in a survey they found massage, physical therapy, and spinal manipulation were better first choices for back pain than muscle relaxants and painkillers—and acupuncture and gentle exercise helped, too. And for certain common conditions—heartburn, insomnia, seasonal allergies, migraine headaches, joint pain—an over-the-counter drug you already have in your medicine cabinet might work as well as a prescription medication. Thoroughly discuss all treatment options with your doctor before he or she hands you a prescription.

 

Enlist the help of your pharmacist, too, by asking for the lowest possible price on your medication—our Secret Shoppers have found that simple question can get a better deal from the pharmacist. Find out if your pharmacy offers a prescription discount program, and whether your drugs might be cheaper by paying the retail price, rather than using your insurance. Hundreds of commonly used generic medications can be purchased for as little as $10 for a three-month supply at major chain drugstores, big-box stores, and club stores. For example, you can pay $4 for a month’s worth of the generic cholesterol drug pravastatin (Pravachol) 20 milligrams, at Sam’s Club, Target, or Walmart. But many people pay an average retail price of $36 without getting the discount. Your pharmacist may suggest other ways to get deeper discounts as well, such buying in bulk (a 90-day supply instead of a 30-day) or ordering by mail.

 

Finally check out Best Buy Drugs’ reports. The project rates nearly two dozen common drug classes, including those used to treat allergies, diabetes, heartburn, high cholesterol, and migraines on how well the drugs work, their risk of side effects, and price.

- Ginger Skinner

Ginger Skinner is a writer for Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs, a public education project dedicated to helping you talk to your doctor about prescription drugs, and helping you find the most effective and safest drugs for the best price. To stay up to date on Best Buy Drugs news and advice, connect with them on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter, and sign up for the free monthly e-alerts.

What Does StuffSeniorsNeed.com do?

Today’s blog post is a guest post from Tony at StuffSeniorsNeed.com, a great site dedicated to helping the elderly along with their caregivers.

So “What does StuffSeniorsNeed.com do?”

The best way to tell that is through my personal story, and while it is a long story I will condense it to be brief and to answer the question above.  It involves my mother’s physical decline, far earlier than I ever would have expected, and the heart attack she took at age 68.

This heart attack, which she did survive, put me in the role of being a very unprepared caregiver.  All of a sudden I needed to become her power of attorney, health care proxy, find all of her financial information to apply for the 5-year look back period for Medicaid, learn how to check out a nursing home to make sure Mom was getting the best care possible, and 100′s of other things that I never foresaw I would have to do this early in life.

Ten years from now, maybe, but not now.

That’s the first thing I do for the readers of my blog as well as for the attendees to the seminars where I speak. Warn them that they need to be prepared now for their role as a caregiver.  It’s going to happen to them sooner than they think.

But as I began my caregiving odyssey, the one thing that truly amazed me were the number of resources available to seniors and their caregivers.  If only they knew where to look for them.

And while you might say, “just call the Office of the Aging” there is so much more to it than that.  And what I saw was that as I compiled more and more information, and became more knowledgeable as to the resources and assistance that was out there, I saw that it was my generation, the caregivers, that really needed the help…even more than their parents in many respects.

They needed a resource to go to for any type of assistance (especially for low-income seniors), such as:

The funny thing is that all of these questions I had to answer for my parents.  This was why I created StuffSeniorsNeed.com, to be a resource not only for seniors but more importantly my generation, their caregivers, so all could lead more rewarding and less stressful lives, while at the same time getting the help they needed.

Since I started the website in March 2012, I have not only helped seniors and caregivers throughout the country find resources such as these, but as a result of the help that I have provided I have been able to speak at several seminars sponsored by local government as well as being featured on the radio program of the Chairman of the Seniors and Veterans Committee of the Suffolk County Legislature, Steve Stern.

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And ultimately, I am continuing to learn.  It seems that new resources to help are coming into being all the time, and I consider it my mission to spread the word about these resources to assist as many people as possible.

This is why I am proud to partner with and support NeedyMeds in their work.

Medication Safety at Home

We hear in the media of mistakes made in hospitals including errors in administering medication. A new study shows that a child is improperly medicated at home every eight minutes. The study published by the journal Pediatrics is based on data from the National Poison Database System between the years of 2002 and 2012. The statistics don’t reflect the real scope of the problem since not everyone reports an error to poison control or may even be aware they made a mistake.

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In the 10-year time period, 696,937 children younger than 6 years old experienced out-of-hospital medication errors. The most common error was double-dosing, or inadvertently giving a child the same medicine twice. The data also suggests that errors are more likely to occur with younger children, in part because older children can tell someone they’ve already taken their dose. Other common mistakes are caused by confusion with units of measure or administering the wrong medicine. Over 93% of medication errors could be managed without going to a healthcare facility. Unfortunately, 25 children died from out-of-hospital medication errors, a majority of which related to analgesics (pain killers).

It is always important to take medicine as directed. In a previous blog post we discussed the Acetaminophen Awareness Coalition’s Know Your Dose Campaign. Commonly found in many over-the-counter pain relievers, fever reducers, sleep aids, cough/cold, and allergy medicines, overdosing on acetaminophen can cause liver damage.

 

Remember to always read and follow the labels of your medicines carefully, be aware of your medication’s ingredients, and be sure to consult your health care provider or pharmacist if you have any questions about medicine you or your family are taking or the reactions between different medications.

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