To listen to the voices of older Americans who confront high drug costs month in and month out is to listen to fear and worry, anger and stress. Many say they’re determining learn how to get by, skipping vacations and other niceties for which they saved.
For Kim Armbruster, 65, who recently retired after a 40-year nursing profession, keeping down the prices of her medications for diabetes, psoriatic arthritis and Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder affecting the thyroid, has been a scramble since she began on Medicare in March.
Ms. Armbruster, of Cary, Unwell., said she had saved extra insulin from prescriptions filled when she had business insurance, enough to maintain costs down before a monthly cap kicks in. But her other conditions have caused immense financial strain.
By June, she had reached Medicare’s threshold for catastrophic coverage after paying greater than $7,000 for Enbrel, a drug she takes for the arthritis; Synthroid, which she takes for Graves’ disease; Eliquis, for atrial fibrillation, insulin and her insulin pump.
“It’s all about pondering ahead, in search of alternatives and strategizing the house budget to find a way to take the crucial meds,” she said. Learning to maintain up with costs, she added, had been like “baptism by fire, to learn every thing I can possibly find out about it to maneuver drug costs and stay healthy without complications.”
The carousel of medicines taken by Mr. Spring, the dementia patient who died in April, included eye-popping price tags for drugs including Eliquis, for a heart condition, and Namenda, an Alzheimer’s drug. Mr. Spring also took an antidepressant and medications to dull the negative effects from Namenda.