April 24, 2019 In The News, Media

Congressman Donald Norcross, patients highlight impact of high prescription costs

Burlington County Times
April 24, 2019

Cheryl Dunican Hein is all too familiar with the Medicare “doughnut hole” and what it means to her finances.

The Maple Shade resident already takes a half dose of one of her prescription medications in order to try to reduce the $400 a month expense of the drug, which has no generic form.

Julie Terrell has a similar problem. Her 10-year-old daughter requires a specialty drug to stave off debilitating seizures because of the genetic Sturge-Weber syndrome, but her family’s prescription drug plan specifies “generics preferred,” which she has learned means her family will have to pay extra just to keep her daughter out of a hospital.

“It’s about $893 a month plus a $40 co-pay,” said the Sicklerville mom.

Meanwhile, Jane Leichner, of Haddon Township, has used the same medicated ointment to treat cold sores for years. But while the drug is exactly the same, she says the price for a small 5-gram tube has steadily risen so that it now runs $978.

Their stories aren’t special cases. In fact, they’re all too common, according to Mark Taylor, president of the New Jersey Pharmacists Association.

“We (pharmacists) hear this every single hour of every single day,” he said Wednesday morning during a roundtable discussion with the three women and Rep. Donald Norcross, D-1st of Camden.

Pennsauken Mayor Jack Killion and Dr. Jubril Oyeyemi, a Mount Holly internist affiliated with Virtua Health, also participated in the talk, which was held at the Pennsauken Towers senior apartments complex and broadcast on the congressman’s Facebook page.

Norcross said the goal was to shine a spotlight on the issue with real life stories about how the high costs of prescription drugs is impacting everyday Americans and their health care.

“We do know the out-of-pocket expenses, the access to the medication, not having generics, it’s a burden,” Norcross said, citing patients who have had to choose between purchasing prescriptions and eating and those who have been forced to cut doses in order to reduce their expenses.

“All these things end up having an impact on a patients’ health outcomes,” the congressman said.

Much of the talk surrounded the anecdotes from Dunican Hein, Leichner and the Terrells.

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