We met Michelle a few weeks ago when she was trying to figure out how to lower the price of the medications and vaccines she needed for her trip to Africa. She went to Uganda to volunteer with a program working in a rural village, establishing a water treatment center for the neighboring villages. She was excited about volunteering for a program that would help build her resume after losing her job at a water treatment plant in the United States, and was looking forward to the career opportunities that would come out of this experience.
Unfortunately, despite her careful planning to prevent illness on her trip, Michelle did not plan for the illness that she would bring home from Uganda: tuberculosis. She did not realize that one of her co-workers on the project, a native-born man who was helping with the office work related to the project, was sick with an active form of this contagious illness. She had seen him going to the local medical clinic several times per week, and noticed that he had been coughing, but he never spoke of his illness to any one else on the water treatment team so she thought he simply had a cold. Michelle thinks she acquired tuberculosis when she was helping him file paperwork in the small office one day; he was having a coughing fit and she helped him sit down and relax to stop coughing.
Michelle did not become ill right away. She worked through her project and not only did her team complete the water treatment plant on time, but she met some wonderful contacts that she could reach out to back at home in the US to help her land a job upon her return. Michelle had 18 hours of flying to get back home, in addition to two layovers, and several long delays due to weather. The arduous trip made it difficult to rest and she was unable to get to sleep on the plane, and when she finally landed, she was exhausted and weak. The next day she woke with a horrible cough like nothing she has ever experienced before, and she grew concerned. She lost her health insurance when she lost her job before the trip, and she was going to start looking for a new job in the next few days that would hopefully be able to offer her health insurance. She decided to wait a few days to see if the cough would pass, since after her trip expenses and losing her job, she did not have a lot of money to spare for healthcare.
Unfortunately, over the next day that cough grew to be so bad that she would have fits of coughing for minutes at a time, and she was barely able to breathe. She went to the ER and was seen by a doctor, who upon hearing that she was in Africa immediately placed her into an isolation room for contagious illnesses. She had a chest x-ray of her lungs and had blood taken for testing, which the doctor used to confirm her diagnosis of tuberculosis. Michelle had thought tuberculosis was a disease of the past, one that no one ever got anymore – boy was she wrong!
The doctor kept Michelle in the hospital overnight for treatment and released her to go home with a thorough treatment regimen including four medications that had to be taken at high doses for 8 weeks, then at lower doses for another 18 weeks. Tears came to her eyes as she added up the cost of the long course of antibiotic therapy with multiple drugs in her head, in addition to the ER visit and overnight hospital stay. She had no idea how she was going to afford all of these medications for a contagious illness she could not avoid treating.
Unexpected Health Costs Start Piling Up
The four prescriptions were sent to the hospital pharmacy for her to pick up on her way out of the hospital, and she could not believe how much her treatment regimen would cost. The treatment regimen included taking one pill per day of isoniazid 300mg and rifampin 300mg, and 3 pills of pyrazinamide 500mg and ethambutol 400mg per day. The hospital pharmacy was willing to add the charge to her bill for the ER visit and hospital stay, but the total for a 30 day supply of the medications she needed was going to be over $900! She was suspicious about this high cost and decided to take matters into her own hands again to see if she could lower the price at all. She called her local Walgreens to check out the prices, and found the total to be about $625. While she was glad this price was lower than what the hospital was going to charge, she was pretty disappointed that the price did not come down much.
Luckily, she remembered that before her trip, she used a handy discount card to help decrease the price of her medications, the Prescription Discount Card from Discount Drug Network. She remembered that this discount card said on it that she could get 10-85% off of prescription items. Since she received such a good discount on the products she needed before her trip, she went home and checked out the prices of her new medications using the Discount Drug Network’s Price Finder. She checked out the prices of these products at her local pharmacy, where a friendly pharmacist helped her get the medications and vaccines she needed before her trip, and she was again surprised at what she found.
She found the isoniazid was the cheapest medication of her regimen – a 30-day supply using the Prescription Discount Card was only $11.46, $6 less than the out of pocket price. The rifampin was a bit more expensive for a 30 day supply, with the price coming in at $98.58 using the Prescription Discount Card, but the discounted price was much lower than the $129.99 that Walgreens was planning to charge her if she had no discount card. The other two medications required her to take more tablets per day, which resulted in a higher price for a 30 day supply: $146 for 90 tablets of ethambutol 400mg, and $187 for 90 tablets of pyrazinamide 500mg. These prices were significantly lower than the out of pocket prices of $191.99 for ethambutol and $279.99 for pyrazinamide, which was reassuring. She spent a bit more time doing her research to see if she could find better prices at a different pharmacy, hoping to bring down the cost as much as possible.
Since the Price Checker has an option to check out what the price of a medication will be using the Prescription Discount Card at any pharmacy in the US, she was able to look around and see if her treatment regimen would be cheaper if she had the medications filled at a different pharmacy. After thoroughly checking prices at all the pharmacies within a 20 mile radius of her home, she found that the Walgreens pharmacy near her home was actually the cheapest pharmacy for these medications, according to the Price Checker. She took her prescriptions to the pharmacy with the handy wallet version of the Prescription Discount Card that she had ordered from the Discount Drug Network before her trip, and was able to get her discounts right away.
In the end, a month’s supply of Michelle’s prescriptions cost her a total of $443 after using the Prescription Discount Card from the Discount Drug Network. This was half the price of what she would have been charged at the hospital pharmacy! She was initially quite upset at the fact that she picked up a very serious, contagious illness on her trip, and that the costs of treating it were going to cost her nearly $1000 per month for the next 5 months. But when she remembered the benefits of using her Prescription Discount Card, she was able to decrease her medication costs dramatically. This allowed her to stop worrying about the cost of her illness and focus on getting healthy again.
When Michelle bought her prescriptions, she was so happy with the prices she received from using the Prescription Discount Card that she told everyone in line at the pharmacy what a great deal she received. Michelle was able to get the medications she needed to start healing from the terrible infection she picked up on her trip, all thanks to the Prescription Discount Card from the Discount Drug Network! This card saved her a lot of money before she left on her trip, and she was incredibly grateful that it was available to help her save money at a time when she really needed the help. She vowed to try to get insurance as soon as possible to help bring down the costs of the remainder of her treatment regimen, but knowing that the Prescription Discount Card is sitting in her wallet, ready to use at a moment’s notice, helps to put her mind at ease.