If you’ve ever had sticker shock when your pet needed a prescription, you’re not alone. Rising costs for pharmaceuticals across the board, for both humans and animals, have left many of us wondering, “Why does medication cost so much?”
Here are four reasons…and four things you can do about it.
- Veterinary prescription medications are still subject to the same FDA requirements to get a drug to market. The research and development stages of making a new drug can take decades and cost millions of dollars. Drug companies must make a profit on their product to make the investment worthwhile. Following the approval of a medication, a lengthy patent ensures that no other pharmaceutical company can produce this drug. This is considered a “name brand” drug and name brand drugs still protected by a patent will always be pricey, as the company recoups their investment. This is seen as a necessary evil because companies would not spend the millions and billions of dollars needed to bring new drugs to market and human and pet health would suffer as a result.
- Pharmaceutical prices are subject to the laws of supply and demand. If there is a large demand for a medication, pharmaceutical companies have been known to raise the price of that drug. Here’s another example: one company that made a common eye ointment was bought by another, larger company, making the larger company the only source of this eye ointment. Guess what? The price for the eye ointment tripled overnight.
- Your pet doesn’t have prescription insurance. Many people don’t realize the true retail cost of medication because health insurance plans keep those costs down. Your pet doesn’t have insurance in the sense that humans do. It can be disheartening to find out that a prescription that might cost four dollars for you is ten times expensive or more for your pet.
- As the technology improves, so do the costs. We now have drugs that treat previously untreatable conditions, like chronic atopy, demodectic mange and others. Our pets are living longer, healthier lives, but that treatment comes with a cost.
So what can you do to keep your costs down for your pet’s prescriptions?
- Invest in preventive care. Your dog or cat should be seen at least once a year for an exam. At BSAH, we recommend twice yearly visits. At the first, we vaccinate your pet and perform diagnostic testing for heartworm disease and tickborne disease, as well as submit a stool sample to screen for intestinal parasites. At this visit, the veterinarian will discuss your pet’s weight and general health and make recommendations for diet. At the semiannual exam, we discuss dental care and address any oral problems and need for dentistry, as well as submit blood specimens to test for organ function. Vaccinating your pet against disease, feeding a good quality diet, keeping his weight in the healthy range and giving him preventive medications for parasites and the diseases they spread is the easiest way to avoid costly medication bills in the future. Of course, many animals suffer from genetic disease or develop health issues related to aging, but early intervention is key when it comes to keeping your pet healthy while avoiding expensive treatments.
- Ask about alternatives. Our vets will usually prescribe the best medication to treat your pet’s condition, but there might be a lower cost alternative. We carry generics whenever they are available, but some of the items in our pharmacy are still under patent and only available as a name brand.
- Ask about rebates. From time to time, drug manufacturers will offer rebates on their product, including things like tick prevention and injectable antibiotics. Many of these rebates can be submitted through your phone and you’ll see your money back faster than a mail-in rebate. If you need help submitting your rebate, please ask! Our receptionists are well versed in all the rebates available, the terms required and how to submit.
- If you’re filling a written prescription for a drug used on the human side at a regular pharmacy, shop around. Prices can vary drastically between chains.
And as always, if you’re working with a budget for your pet’s care, please let us know!
photo credit: Pixabay Creative Commons CC0