Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Horribly Broken Prescription Delivery System

From a recent e-mail to friends...

I rarely write during the day - I actually stay pretty busy. But I'm 'relaxing' over the holidays (only trying to work 8 hrs/day,) and I needed to focus on my Zolpidem (generic for Ambien) prescription because I'M ALMOST OUT!

So I wanted to order some online now that we are on an HSA and paying cash for them...I thought that it would be no big deal.

Lots to talk about here for the next time we're together. But interesting results from price checking a few local pharmacies: One tech told me she had know way to find out what prescriptions cost. The range was $45 (drugstore.com) to $164 (CVS.) Walmart was $86. The CVS tech asked me, "Do you know how many insurances (sic) there are?" She passed me around for a while and I finally learned that you need to specifically ask for the 'Cash' price - a keyword that takes you into the 'this poor bastard doesn't have insurance' queue - which they know means you'll PAY ANYTHING SINCE THERE IS NO MARKET FOR PRESCRIPTIONS SOLD AT AN ADVERTISED PRICE! (I use the term 'Market' in its technical/economic sense here.)

I ordered from drugstore.com on 12/9. The flurry of paperwork ended today when I practically had to conference them together to exchange info. My doctor still depends on faxes and phone calls exclusively to do this. There is no system of electronic communication. Zolpidem is a 'controlled substance' and must require doctors and pharmacists to pledge their first born sons or daughters to keep paper documentation authorizing them to write/fill prescriptions - with penalties like dismemberment if they can't provide the paper trail. (So much for the ubiquitously available ED meds!)

It would be MUCH EASIER to get Pot, Cocaine or Heroine. At least I know the service would be driven by market forces! I may try later today and report back ;)

P.S. Drugstore.com turns out to be the BEST place to get this stuff so far. I know exactly what phone numbers to dial and IVR prompts to pass to crack their system now ;) I'll clue you in for free drinks!