Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Beware travel medications: You can get ripped off

I am used to losing cash pointlessly when I travel - in fact when I am going to the third world I expect to pay 5 times what I should because I have no idea what the cost of something is meant to be.  But when it happens at home it really irks me.  This is a warning for all those who simply assume a doctor is going to prescribe the cheapest medication because it's the right thing to do: they aren't and you can get stung for hundreds of dollars.

I was travelling and left my medical appointment to the last minute...

I am going on holiday to a part of the world where you really need malaria medication and I had completely forgotten about it.  With 2 days to go before I leave (don't worry - the posts will keep coming - I learned my lesson from the last time I travelled) I scrambled to make an appointment with the doctor.

I have been going to the same doctor for as long as I could remember however he retired earlier this year and this is the first time I've needed to go to one.  I went to one in the CBD next to work.  I knew it was going to be expensive...but $70 for an appointment which took exactly 6 minutes seemed a little excessive to me.  I'll get a bit back on Medicare but it is still ridiculous.

I was actually going to post about this - about trying to find a doctor who bulk billed because it could save you a lot of money if you went several times in a year - but then I got stung really badly.

I had a doctor who was not interested in providing me the full information

The doctor I got stuck with did not bother to provide me with the information I needed.  I went in and asked for a prescription for malaria medication.  I have travelled overseas a fair bit and I know what I usually take: Doxycycline.  I mentioned to him that I have a real sensitivity to light when I take it (a common side effect) and asked whether it was the only medication out there.

He said there was - it was just as good and then he prescribed me Malarone which seemed like a magical drug when he described it - you don't need to take it as often as Doxycycline, you don't need to take it for as long and it works just as well which sounded like a miracle replacement...

However when I went to the chemist...10 days worth cost me $150!

Doxycylcine costs ~$30 for a 10 day trip...I was out of pocket more than $120 to solve a problem that I had been dealing with for years.  The doctor I had a relationship with never bothered to prescribe this other drug for me because he knew it was super expensive.

I know I should have asked about the cost.  I know that it was on me to get the right prescription...but when a doctor doesn't mention to you that the cost is significantly higher...and the only way you can get another prescription is to pay another $70 then it does feel like a bit of a rort.

The moral of the story is...don't trust that a doctor is prescribing you the most cost effective medication

If it is not life and death it is worth asking them about the relative cost and benefit.  For me the difference between the two drugs was a sensitivity to light but they worked to stop malaria just as well as each other...I would have taken the cheaper drug.

If you don't have a relationship with a doctor that you trust to do the right thing by you it is worth asking the questions.  It is sad that you have to but you could get stung like I did. It pays to question what you are being told (whether it is by financial professionals, lawyers, accountants - or as it turns out here...medical professionals).

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