Glaucoma is a group of diseases that affect the optic nerve of the eye. It is the cable that carries the information from the eye to the brain. Any damage to this optic nerve due to high pressures can damage it, resulting in lower vision or vision loss. Therefore, it is essential to treat glaucoma early and treat it consistently. This article will review some of the financial burdens associated with glaucoma therapy and some tips to help alleviate that financial burden.
1) Buy Generic
This is a relatively common approach to lowering the cost of your prescription medications. Switching your brand name medications to an available generic brand or switching to a medication on your insurance plan’s formulary can lower costs. The downside to doing this is that it may have lower effectiveness or undesired side effect profile in some cases. The opposite may also be true in that it may control the eye pressure better or have a more tolerable side effect profile. The only way to know is to try and follow up with your eye doctor.
2) Buy Brand Name
This may seem counter-intuitive for some patients; however, many patients are losing their health insurance or may not have drug coverage on their insurance plan given the current economic state. As such, they may be able to switch to a brand-name medication and apply for manufacturing drop assistance plans. This is where the manufacturer covers all or part of the medicine cost based on your financial situation. In these cases, it is crucial to work with your eye doctor as several criteria must be met to qualify for the programs.
3) Bring out the Laser
While the traditional route of treating glaucoma involves using eye drops, there is a growing consensus amongst ophthalmologists that using a laser, like SLT, to help lower the eye pressure may be a superior alternative when treating patients with early or newly diagnosed glaucoma. In this case, it is essential to review with your eye doctor the risks and benefits of using laser versus using glaucoma drops.
4) Going Under the Knife
Newer surgical techniques are in development for treating glaucoma using less invasive surgery. This new era of minimally invasive glaucoma surgery allows patients to undergo surgery earlier in the disease course to reduce their need for drops. Often it can be combined with cataract surgery. While these procedures’ success rate is variable, those that benefit can reduce the number of medications they’re on, leading to future cost savings in theory.
5) Practice, Practice, Practice.
Putting eye drops in your eye is a skill that is difficult to learn. As a result, it is possible that drops miss the eye or do not go in the eye. The bottles only carry a certain amount of medicine. Every drop that does not make it in the eye is wasted, and this can lead to shortages at the end of the month when the bottle runs out before your designated refill time. Some patients have to purchase drops out of pocket, which raises the cost to them. Thus, it is important to practice getting the drops in your eye the first time, every time.
6) Go Shopping
While many insurance plans require you to send your medications to a specific pharmacy network, others do not have such requirements. Each pharmacy set their prices, and each insurance plan sets their allowable payments. As such, it may be beneficial to shop at various pharmacies and shop at various independent local pharmacies to see who can offer you the best price. Furthermore, some manufacturers contract with specific pharmacies to provide a better price; thus, it may be beneficial to look at these relationships to see if you can take advantage of those price discounts.
7) The More You Buy; the More You Save.
Some insurance plans have discounts for ordering 90-day supplies instead of 30-day supplies. They often combine this requirement with using a mail-order pharmacy, resulting in possible savings for the patient.
Medication therapy in glaucoma is a critical way to help treat the disease and prevent vision loss. There are many considerations when doing medical therapy, including effectiveness, side effect profile, and cost. Often, in today’s health systems, patients are burdened with additional costs, but there are many ways to help minimize these costs. It is not acceptable to stop using the medication to save cost, allowing glaucoma to go untreated. It is critical to discuss with your eye doctor if you are having difficulties with your medications to find an effective solution.
Should you require any more information, please do not hesitate to contact us at 800-282-3937 to make an appointment.
Dr. Sheraly is an Ophthalmologist with Eye Specialists of Mid-Florida. He is a Glaucoma Specialist.