A recent editorial by NPR documented the struggle to afford the high-priced inhaler medications for Medicare beneficiaries with COPD, many of whom rely on a surplus of free samples from physicians and pharmacists to treat their conditions.
Across the country, doctors who treat COPD say costs are a common problem for patients. Dr David Mannino at the University of Kentucky College of Public Health says some patients cut pills in half or take a prescription once a day instead of twice, just to save money.
…Many enrollees like [Juanita] Milton can’t afford their inhalers. Milton depends on free samples provided by her doctor for her prescription of one inhaler, Breo Ellipta, but the supply is limited, so she regularly skips one of the two daily doses. And, in order to afford her Spiriva, she applied for drugmaker Boehringer Ingelheim’s financial assistance program and received one year’s worth of free samples.
Dr Brian Stigall of Hill Country Medical Associates in New Braunfels, Texas, keeps a closet full of free drug samples for patients like Milton. “Thank goodness, the drug reps are good. They bring us lots of samples,” Stigall says. “I save those samples back for those Medicare patients.”