ATLANTA - The Epilepsy Foundation of Georgia is taking steps to arm Georgians with a tool to help manage their health care.
The Georgia House voted unanimously to pass HB194 last week and, once signed by the Governor, will require Georgia pharmacies to indicate on the medication bottle if there has been a brand to generic switch.
This is great news for Georgians, and a great "first step" in consumer protection. The Epilepsy Foundation wallet cards will help Georgians remember questions to ask about their prescription drugs the next time they visit their local pharmacy, potentially saving lives.
This new aid was developed in response to a growing trend by insurance companies called "therapeutic substitution". The Atlanta Journal Constitution's "Dr. H" recently wrote, "While therapeutic substitution seems a violation of a patient's right, the reality is that this practice is here to stay because the powers that dictate health care believe it saves money." (AJC Health Blog Q&A with Dr. H (3/16/2010)).
The wallet card provides tips on how your doctor can help avoid a medication change without your knowledge – like writing "brand necessary" on the prescription. And, the card has important questions to ask the pharmacist when presented with the option to switch their prescription to a different medication.
"Many times the practice of drug switching happens at the pharmacy counter and may confuse patients causing them to make uninformed decisions that could be harmful to their health," said Dr. Larry Seiden, an Atlanta Neurologist. "This card will help guide patients when confronted with the option to switch medicines. As a physician, I welcome a tool that aims to strengthen the physician-patient relationship and am proud to be sending the cards to every member of the Georgia Neurology Association."
The Epilepsy Foundation of Georgia hopes the cards will help members like Claudia Woodruff, an epilepsy patient that was impacted by this practice. "My anti-seizure medications prescription was switched without my consent, my physician's consent, and without any warning to me.
As a result, I had 3 seizures within 7 days after I had been seizure free for several years," said Woodruff. "I understand the need to control costs, but the change in medication with no warning could have cost much to others and to me. I'm thankful these cards are being made available to encourage people to think twice before accepting medication changes when their health plan or pharmacist suggests a switch."
Over the next few months over 5,000 wallet cards will be distributed to health care providers and patients. The card will also be available to everyone on the GA Epilepsy Foundation website www.epilepsyga.org.