The cost of living

I have just started taking pregabalin (Brand name: Lyrica) to treat the neuropathic pain that I have been suffering from. When I was discussing it with some friends I discovered something that seemed quite shocking to me. In the USA there are people that need this drug, have been prescribed it by their doctors, but have been deprived of it because their insurance companies have refused to pay for it. This refusal could be because they do not think it appropriate, or do not accept the reality of an illness that is not necessarily detectable in tests, but the most common reason is expense.

It hadn’t actually crossed my mind that pregabalin might be an expensive medicine. My doctor has a nice flowchart of what drugs to try for my illness and what order to try them in, and this one was next on the list. In my blissful ignorance, I simply take the prescription from the doctor to the pharmacy, and walk away with the drugs. All costs covered by the NHS. Since I have long term chronic illness, I am exempt even from paying the £7.20 prescription charge that most people would pay for their drugs.

All of this got me thinking; what if I had to pay for my medicine? Would it even be possible? I currently have twelve medicines on prescription. If I were to pay even the standard prescription charge, with the NHS covering the rest, my medicine bill would come to £86.40 per month. At the moment we are struggling to even pay for our rent, bills and food, so this cost would be crippling. But without the NHS? My drugs would cost much much more. I did some research, and I present here what I would pay for my most important drugs.

  • Metformin (Glucophage) £12.28
  • Gliclazide £1.86
  • Olmesartan Medoxomil £10.95
  • Bendroflumethiazide £0.91
  • Pramipexole £35.66
  • Sumatriptan nasal spray (Imigran) £35.39
  • Naproxen £4.20
  • Pregabalin capsules (Lyrica) £64.40
  • Codeine £5.39
  • Paracetamol £1.62

Total cost: £172.66 per month.

In the USA it would be even worse. Here are the best prices that I could find. (Via www.pharmacychecker.com)

  • Metformin (Glucophage) $50.40
  • Gliclazide $17.22
  • Olmesartan Medoxomil $18.20
  • Bendroflumethiazide – no price found
  • Pramipexole $29.68
  • Sumatriptan nasal spray (Imigran) $114
  • Naproxen $11.76
  • Pregabalin capsules (Lyrica) $161.28
  • Codeine – no price found
  • Paracetamol (Acetaminphen) – no price found

Total cost: $411.54 (£255.68)

That is an astonishing difference between UK and US price.If I had to pay all of it myself, I would have to go without many of my medicines, which would basically leave me unable to control my diabetes and my migraines. Apart from the Lyrica, my pain medication is actually very cheap and I would still be able to afford that. Without diabetes medication I would be practically unable to eat and would still have hyperglycemia. Without sumatriptan, my painkillers would not help and the other symptoms of migraines would keep me firmly in my bed. Fortunately the NHS covers my costs and I have some chance at recovery and leading a relatively normal life. Some people will no doubt argue that it is unfair for me to drain so much money from the NHS. They have failed to understand how this system works. When Aneurin Bevan launched the NHS in 1948 he gave the NHS three aims:

  • That it meet the needs of everyone
  • That it be free at the point of delivery
  • That it be based on clinical need, not ability to pay

Treatment for any given individual may very well be expensive, but it all works out in the end. I have paid National Insurance whenever I have been well enough to work. I receive my medicines without paying when I need them. With those medicines, I may well improve enough to work again and pay more National Insurance. The NHS provides for both people that will one day repay their healthcare costs, and people that might not. Even those that will never be able to work and contribute financially will still contribute something to their society by their very existence. And regardless of future financial contribution, would you really want to live in a world that simply leaves the sick to die?

I am very glad that we have the NHS and I will fight as hard as I can to keep it.The government must not be allowed to ruin what we have.

Author: Latentexistence

The world is broken and I can't fix it because I am broken. I can, however, rant about it all and this is where I do that when I can get my thoughts together. Most of the time you'll find my words on Twitter rather than here though. I sometimes write for Where's The Benefit too.

10 thoughts on “The cost of living”

  1. When we set up the NHS, in 1948, the country had just emerged from World War II. Our finances were in tatters. Food, and everything else, was rationed. If we could afford the NHS then, we can afford it now.

  2. I hoped to leave an informed witty and erudite response but I’m suddenly enveloped by a tentacle of Gloom. There’s probably thousands of me out there, just too damned petrified join in the protests. What’s the emoticon for despair? ŧ·ø

  3. i am the same here~lots of meds and low income and like you have lots of meds to pay for~i also take metformin and gliclazide, plus two other things for my diabetes, something for high cholesterol, pain meds and something to stop my stomach hating the pain meds and iron for my pernament anaemia. my migraine meds i pay for, for some reason this surgery wont let me have it on prescription whereas my old one did.
    my OH was on pregabalin for his back but is now trying something else.

    we have often discussed it and came to the conclusion it would be a case of living off of soup or cheese on toast if we had to pay for all our meds.
    but i am sure there are poor folk out there who do have to make this kind of decision everyday~to get meds or buy food and pay bills.
    what kind of country are we living in?

  4. I lived in the USA for 1yr and had various illnesses, walking pneumonia and lots of allergies, investigating and treating everything came to $2500, which included useless tests the doc sent me to do. While there I paid for my own gardisal injections which were another $380ish dollars, but I thought they were worth it as the aussie/uk government funded them so they must be fairly effective. I was amazed at the medical system in the US, luckily I had insurance provided by the boat I was on at the time. unbelievable. there was an article in national geographic showing the average medical costs/person in different countries. the usa was one of the highest $$amount per person, which was explained in the article by the fact that people would wait until they were really sick before going to the doctors. Crazy that such a developed country doesn’t have a better subsidised health system. the medicare system in oz isn’t perfect, but I’m glad we have it.

  5. I pay near $300.00 a MONTH on copays and meds. Not to mention when they decided to give me spinal injections that have never worked and MRI’s that are always negative. USA healthcare is a joke!

  6. I understand and am fully sympathetic to your position and others like in similar situations. However speaking generally, I do wonder at the system’s propensity for throwing drugs at symptoms. Anyone would think somebody or something further up the chain was making money from our debilitating conditions. Managing pain and chronic illness is distressing. But we can’t pop a pill for societal distress. Dismantling the NHS for private gain can only add to our woes. Anyone know where we locate the anaesthetic? Maybe give the government a valium pill and while it’s out of it, we can discuss. If you’re fit and able or if you can help form the wheelchair bloc, be there: March 26th.

  7. Great post, to paraphrase Churchill “The NHS is the worst form of healthcare except all the others that have been tried”.

  8. Hi Steven, I moved from London to Lanzarote in 2004, and I am very lucky that we have national health (for anybody in the EU) here too. I am on Lyrica for fibro as well, plus an injection for RA every 2 weeks (checked the price of this on the internet and it´s around €1,100 a month!), plus Cymbalta (duloxetine, called Xeristar over here) for fibro. I would *never* be able to afford all this, nor would any other “normal” chronically ill person I know. I have to pay for the Lyrica and Cymbalta and other prescriptions, but things are very cheap here (the latter is around €2 for a month´s supply), and the RA medication I get for free.

    I hope that one day soon there will be a huge change in the US to make these *basics* accessible for everybody with a longterm illness.

    We are surely blessed with our free treatment and drugs, don´t you think?

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