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Inflation Impact: Rising Cost Of Health Care

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Inflation is impacting the costs of prescription medicine, and it can be a matter of life or death for some people.

Scan the shelves inside your local pharmacy, and you will see that over-the-counter medication is no stranger to sticker shock. Products like cold and allergy medicines are increasing in cost over the past couple of months.

"Some of the test strips that we sell have gone from $7 a box to $10 a box," said Kyle McCormick, owner of Blueberry Pharmacy.

Whether patients will have to pour more money into prescription drugs is a little harder to uncap. McCormick said there has been no impact from the recent inflation surge so far, but pharmacies are keeping close watch over the current COVID spike happening overseas in places like China, which has become a significant manufacturer in the pharmaceutical business.

Any closures there could cause supply chain issues and cost increases here.

"April 2020, I was paying $205 all throughout 2020," McCormick said. "Then January 2021 hits, and I was paying $218. And then come January of this year, 2022, the price went up to $229 dollars."

"A lot of times, those payment structures don't change a whole lot," said Lucas Berenbrok, an associate professor at Pitt School of Pharmacy. "If they do, it's a dollar or two. But that does affect the people who are on a lot of medications, because if they're paying an extra dollar a month that could be an extra $25 a month that they don't have."

Berenbrok said for some, keeping up with the rising costs of prescriptions can sometimes mean making tough choices. He said there are some resources to help lessen the burden.

"Sometimes, the insurance allows for a cheaper 90-day supply rather than a 30-day supply," Berenbrok said. "That is one way that patients can save on their copayments. A lot of times, that copay can be dispensed with two copayments instead of three."

Berenbrok also suggested asking your pharmacist about prescription savings copay cards or assistance programs. And, of course, you can also choose generic medications, which have lowered in price year over year.

At Blueberry Pharmacy, operating on the cost-plus model, in addition to a small dispense fee, McCormick sells generic medications to his customers at the same price he purchased them from his wholesaler. It's his own personal way of making healthcare more accessible in the community he cares about.

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