Prescription drugs are one of the types of treatment not always covered by your provincial health plan. Nortel medical coverage pays for part of the prescriptions not covered by the provincial plan, but on a limited basis. As a society, we’re being prescribed and taking more medications than in the past, so it’s important to research prescription options.
What This Means to You
You can take steps to save money, get more out of your coverage and create a healthier you by asking the right questions at the right time.
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist about an over-the-counter (OTC) treatment. For an occasional minor ailment such as joint pain, heartburn or allergies, call your doctor’s office or visit your pharmacist and ask if you can try an over-the-counter treatment first. You’ll save money because the cost of the medicine is less. Also keep in mind that if you directed leftover Benefits Credits to a Health Care Reimbursement Account, you can use your account to be reimbursed for certain over-the-counter drugs.
- Ask your doctor to prescribe a 90-day supply for maintenance medications. If you’re taking longer-term prescriptions (for example, medications for arthritis, allergies, birth control or high blood pressure), you can ask your doctor to prescribe a 90-day supply to save on dispensing fees.
- Use your prescriptions correctly. Taking a prescription improperly can lead to reduced effectiveness, discomfort and a possible relapse of the original condition (plus wasted health care dollars). That’s why it’s always a good idea to follow the instructions that come with your prescription, and to contact your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions.
A Refresher on Generic Drugs
So what’s the difference between a brand-name drug and a generic? The primary difference isn’t in the drug itself, but in who makes it and how long it’s been on the market. In return for its investment in developing a new drug, a company receives a patent and is the only one that can make it for a certain period of time. The drug carries this company’s “brand name,” and it’s priced to earn back (at least) the development cost over the life of the patent.
When the drug’s patent runs out, any company can make its “generic” equivalent, meeting the same requirements for effectiveness and safety. Without the development cost and with more competition, these companies charge a much lower price for the same drug. Currently, almost half of all prescriptions are filled with generic drugs.
The good news is that generic prescription drugs have the same chemical makeup as brand-name drugs, but cost much less. And, in some cases, over-the-counter drugs that you can buy without a doctor’s prescription may work just as well as a generic or brand-name prescription drug.
In addition, Nortel’s plans cover only generic drugs. If your doctor prescribes a brand-name drug, the plan will pay only a percentage of the cost. So, it’s important to talk to your doctor about generics to make sure you’re getting the right care at the right cost.