What you should know about prescription medication prices

After investigating the price of medication, one local nurse found the price can vary greatly from one pharmacy to another. They recommend making calls before you end up paying too much. (SBG photo)

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. - What do you do when you need a medication but can't afford it? That's the dilemma one local veteran faced after he suffered a heart attack.

Richard Doyle spent 14 years with the Marine Corps.

Then, after he had a heart attack, he wound up in the emergency room at the McKenzie Willamette Medical Center. Cardiovascular Heart Lung Center medical director, Dr. Jay Chappell put a stent in Doyle’s heart, saving his life.

"I was discharging him on a Sunday and he was needing to get four new prescriptions that were very important for him to start that day," said Chappell.

"When I checked with the VA, my primary care doctor was on vacation and wouldn't be back. I couldn't see him until the end of the month and I needed the medication like right now," said Doyle.

So Chappell sent the prescription order to a local pharmacy, but when Doyle went to pay for his medications he was surprised when he heard it would be about $400 for four medications.

"$400 is a lot to shell out at one time," said Doyle.

“What some of these retail pharmacies charge patients that don't have insurance is dramatically than what I was aware of," said Chappell.

However, it wasn't until Doyle connected with a patient educator that doctors learned he couldn't afford his medicine:

"Which is a heart attack waiting to happen, it's a readmission waiting to happen," said McKenzie Willamette Medical Center’s cardiovascular nurse and patient educator, Breeah Skirten.

Skirten said she decided to spend about an hour on the phone with multiple pharmacies researching the prices for the same medication and quantity.

"In Mr. Doyle's case, the most important medication he needed to pick up was the one we are talking about," said Skirten.

By the end, she found the prices ranged from $143 at one pharmacy all of the way down to $8.99 at another.

"It really was... the difference between this patient being able to afford this medication versus this patient walking out of the pharmacy," said Skirten.

Doctor Chappell said all four of Doyle’s medications were generic. He said those drugs typically cost less than name-brand medications.

"Secondarily, I was pretty upset. I mean pretty angry that here's a guy, he's a vet he doesn't have the same kind of health insurance the rest of us do. We sent him home on medicines that are very inexpensive and yet he was being asked to pay over $400 for medicines that should've been about 10 percent of that cost," said Chappell.

Now Skirten, Chappell, and Doyle want to get their warning message out others.

"There's no reason why this couldn't happen again and I think word needs to get out that if you have a prescription for a generic medicine and you don't have insurance to help cover it. You need to look around and find what the best price is," said Chappell.

Now, McKenzie Willamette recommends using one pharmacy so they can track all your medications.

If that's not possible, they encourage you to call around to find the best deal.

As for Doyle, he got to see his primary doctor at the VA a week ago. He said he is getting is medication through them now without a worry.

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