High cost of Tamiflu stretching pocketbooks of many flu-stricken Louisville-area families
Many families are discovering that their health insurance doesn't provide the coverage they expected.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The high cost of Tamiflu, the medication used to treat the flu, is prohibitive for some patients. As the flu bounces from kids to parents in the same home, it's causing families to shell out hundreds of dollars, and reluctance to do so has already cost one Texas woman her life.
The flu swept through Andrea Diggs Louisville home late last week when her two year old son Charles started to act a little lethargic.
"He had a runny nose for about two days," said Diggs. "We noticed he started getting warmer."
Sure enough a trip the immediate care confirmed her home diagnosis. Doctors said Charles Diggs IV tested positive for the flu virus.
But Tamiflu was hard to find.
"[We] tried to get the generic version, and it was completely sold out, not only at the Walgreens closest to us but all the surrounding Walgreens," Diggs said. "We asked how much for the regular brand name, and he told me that it was going to be $153, and that was after my insurance. It shocked me."
Kentucky has reached more than 100 flu-related deaths so far this season, and there are widespread cases reported across the country. On Tuesday, the cost for the cure averaged $135 retail. The price is a little less for the generic form and a little more for the liquid form. We found certain insurance plans that took the price down to just $10.
Diggs said she knew something was amiss when she saw the $153 price tag.
"I said well that can't be right," she said. "My prescriptions are never that high."
But increasingly, families find themselves with sticker shock at the register.
"I think where you see the price discrepancy, is it is the first of the year, and a lot of folks do have deductibles, and they're having to meet those deductibles, so they may have to pay the whole $150," said Anthony Westmoreland, owner of New Albany-based Westmoreland Pharmacy and Compounding.
The price proved fatal for a teacher in Texas. Heather Holland, 38, didn't fill a $116 Tamiflu prescription earlier this month and died. Her husband, Frank Holland told newspapers she was frugal person and, "It cost too much."
"It's really taxing everybody's families, schools, pharmacies, doctor's offices," Westmoreland said.
GoodRX.com has coupons for several drugs at places like Kroger, Walmart, CVS and Walgreens that you can print online for free. Those discounts can bring the price down to about $50-65 dollars depending on the store.
Westmoreland said your local pharmacist may have some alternative pricing as well.
"As an independent, we try to do whatever we can to get people treated," he said.
It all starts with a conversation, and the bottom line is a patient must be his or her own advocate. That strategy worked for the Diggs family.
"Thankfully, my husband spoke up and said, 'Have you run my insurance?'" Diggs said. "Because we are very blessed to have two insurances in our household ... So he ran his, and sure enough, after his, it was only $10."
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