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What Can I Do If I Can't Afford My Cholesterol Medication?

Your Cholesterol Medication May Save Your Life, But Does It Have To Come at a Price?

By Lia Tremblay

Updated November 09, 2008

(LifeWire) - If your doctor has prescribed a medication to keep your cholesterol under control, you know how important it is to take it as directed. That's easier said than done, though, when you can't afford your prescription. With 47 million Americans lacking health insurance, many will have to choose between what's good for them and what's best for their budgets.

So what do you do if your heart is competing with your wallet?

Tell Your Doctor

First, mention your dilemma to the doctor who prescribed your meds. He may know of a less expensive, generic alternative that will work just as well. He may also be able to lower your dose if it appears that your changes in diet and exercise have helped to improve your cholesterol.

Look in to Medication Assistance Programs

There are programs to help patients with the cost of medication. Some are sponsored by the government, some by nonprofit organizations and some by the drug manufacturers themselves. The National Council on Aging's BenefitsCheckUp website is a great place to find out which ones can help you. The American Pharmacists Association also lists some programs you can look in to.

Think Locally

Nonprofits in your own town may have programs to help patients such as you. Some hospitals sponsor programs like this as a way to help keep hospital crowding to a minimum. Your local health department should be able to provide information on any local programs that can help.

Don't Wait

Whatever you do, don't wait until your supply has run out to find a solution. Abruptly stopping a course of cholesterol medication can be dangerous, and doing without it for the long period of time can do great harm to your health. A 2007 study found that heart attack patients who lacked the ability to pay for medication were later found to have a 17% higher rate of chest pain and a 16.4% higher rate of rehospitalization for heart trouble, compared to their more financially sound counterparts.


"Considerations When Prescribing Medication." americanheart.org. 2008. American Heart Association. 22 Oct. 2008 <http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=811>.

"FAQs and Resources for Lower-Cost Medications." pharmacist.com. 2008. American Pharmacists Association. 22 Oct. 2008 <http://www.pharmacist.com/AM/Template.cfm?Section=FAQs_and_resources_for_Lower_Cost_Medications >.

"Medicine Assistance Programs." americanheart.org. 2008. American Heart Association. 22 Oct. 2008 <http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=3048011>.

Rahimi, Ali R., John A. Spertus, Kimberly J. Reid, Susannah M. Bernheim, and Harlan M. Krumholz. "Financial Barriers to Health Care and Outcomes After Acute Myocardial Infarction." Journal of the American Medical Association. 297:(2007): 1063-1072.

LifeWire, a part of The New York Times Company, provides original and syndicated online lifestyle content. Lia Tremblay is a freelance writer and editor specializing in consumer healthcare topics. She lives and works in Virginia.
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