New York City residents are spending a lot more money on prescription drugs this year than last, as the number of prescriptions in New York’s community pharmacies soared.
The number of pills written for patients at two of the nation’s largest community pharmacies has more than doubled since last year, reaching a total of 2.4 million in 2018.
The increase in prescriptions is especially surprising given that most of the prescriptions are filled by family and friends and not doctors, according to a survey of pharmacies by the pharmacy benefit management program for health plans.
The rise in the number is largely driven by a new category of drugs: those used to treat chronic pain, a growing segment of the U.S. population that is not covered by health insurance.
New York Community Pharmacy Association president Paul A. Sullivan said the rise in prescription-drug purchases is also a symptom of the opioid crisis in the United States.
“We see a lot of patients that are suffering and we see a ton of money being spent on prescriptions for these people,” Sullivan said.
“People are looking for relief.
We have to get that money.”
The New York Times recently published a chart showing the rising number of medications being filled by people who are not in the doctor’s office.
It shows that more than two-thirds of the new medications that were written in the Northeast in 2018 were pain medication.
That’s up from 61 percent in 2017, and more than 50 percent in 2016.
But some residents are having a harder time getting their prescriptions filled.
A survey of pharmacy benefit managers conducted in early February by the Pharmacy Benefit Management Association showed that more of them were seeing patients who were not covered for their prescription drugs, such as those who were under age 65 or those with chronic conditions such as diabetes.
The survey showed that about 50 percent of the more than 3,000 pharmacy benefit manager members surveyed said they were seeing more than half their patients in their community pharmacy who are out of insurance coverage, meaning they were unable to pay their prescription bills.
The association, which is a national nonprofit organization, is pushing for more health care access to low-income residents, especially low-wage workers, and other services.
The opioid crisis has created a new problem for many people who live in the neighborhood pharmacies, Sullivan said, because most are not covered through their health plans and must pay the pharmacy a fee.
The problem is compounded by the fact that most people in New England live in rural areas, where access to healthcare is less frequent and expensive, he said.
Sullivan noted that the community pharmacies are a large source of revenue for the community health department.
The department helps pay for most of its employees, including the pharmacy directors, he noted.
The group also receives grants from the New York State Department of Health to operate its pharmacy benefit offices.
The organization has been working to address this issue, said Dan Kostas, director of community pharmacy programs at the department.
“The fact that we have a growing population of people who aren’t covered by insurance and who are paying their doctor’s fees, we’re doing what we can to provide as many of those people as we can,” he said, adding that the organization is looking for new ways to offer the service to the neighborhood pharmacy community.
Sullivan also said that the pharmacy benefits management group has developed a “new approach to provide assistance to the community pharmacy community.”
“We want to get the community to take ownership of their pharmacy,” Sullivan added.
“If you’re a person that has a chronic health condition, or you’re on Medicare, or have a disability, or we want to help you access affordable medication, we need to help them.”
The Northeast’s growing prescription drug market has made it one of the most expensive regions in the country, according a report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
The cost of prescription drugs is rising faster than wages, and a shortage of doctors, nurses and pharmacists has driven the surge in prescriptions.
That has led to a growing number of health plans cutting back on their prescriptions, Sullivan and Kostases said.
The issue has also led to some high-profile incidents in which doctors have been assaulted and drug users have been hospitalized, the authors said.
New Yorkers who live on Staten Island, for example, are paying about $7,000 a year more for their prescriptions than residents in other parts of the state, according the study.
Residents of Brooklyn and Queens, meanwhile, are spending about $1,000 more for prescription drugs.
That is a lot, Sullivan noted, because many of the people who have prescriptions for their chronic pain medication have to pay $300 a month in out-of-pocket costs.
The shortage is particularly concerning because most of those prescriptions are used by family members and not patients.
Sullivan estimated that some patients who are getting their prescription filled at community pharmacies have to take the drug out of the pharmacy and go to a nearby hospital for care, even though the drugs are not being dispensed through the community. That