Most medical authorities believe a patient’s needs should be most important when writing prescriptions. The patient’s physical status and the best available drugs can be matched, assuring the best treatment.
Regrettably, the growing practice of so-called “drug switching” is putting patients at risk. Drug switching is nothing more than a financial incentive promoted by some pharmacy companies that encourages physicians or pharmacists to use a different drug in the same therapeutic class.
This could mean the substitution of one brand-name prescription drug for another brand-name prescription drug, of a generic prescription drug for a brand-name drug, or of an over-the-counter drug for a brand name or generic prescription drug.
It’s unethical. It’s unsafe and it needs to stop.
More often than not, drug switching has nothing to do with how effective a drug might be. Following a lengthy investigation, the American Medical Association’s Council on Scientific Affairs released a report stating that drug formularies employed by pharmaceutical benefits managers, health plans, insurance companies, and other third-party payers in ambulatory settings focus primarily on controlling costs rather than on improving the quality of care …”
It should come as no surprise that health plans implementing drug-switching programs often do not routinely monitor treatment outcomes, contributing to disparities in the quality of health care and health status among the most vulnerable.
For most of us, our ability to pay for prescription medications is a function of the options available through our health insurers. The care we receive must give us the best chance for successful treatment and must not be constrained by our ability to pay.
Do not hesitate to ask questions of your physicians or insurance companies, and insist they answer in a way you can understand. You will not embarrass anyone with questions. Indeed, you will clearly demonstrate you are an informed partner in your care. Demand to know of any cost-driven limits on your health care that are being imposed upon your physician by your insurance company. We must require those who have information to share it with us in a way we can use.