Pricey prescriptions causes local man to cross border for medicine

OKLAHOMA CITY - A local man said he's suffering from sticker shock after learning the same inhaler he got in Mexico costs 11 times more in the United States.

It’s a topic that often comes up close to election time, skyrocketing drug prices.

Thursday, the president said he wants to revamp how Medicare pays for certain pricey drugs. And, the fact is prescriptions often vary widely in price in different countries.

Vince Belkham couldn't believe his eyes when he tried to pick up a refill for an inhaler he purchased while getting treated in Mexico.

“I asked my doctor about this, and she said, if you want it, 'We'll write you a prescription.' I get a noticed from Walmart, 'Hey, your prescription is ready. It's $364’,” he said.

Belkham said that’s way more than what he paid across the border in Mexico - “597 pesos, about $34.50,” he said.

Belkham is on the Affordable Care Act, and the insurance plan doesn't cover the cost of the inhaler he uses.

A Combivent Respimat inhaler without insurance at Walgreen's is $456. At Walmart, it’s $418 and CVS Pharmacy - a whopping $1,350.

It's an issue President Donald Trump said many Americans are facing. Trump visited the Department of Health and Human Services and blasted a system he claims gouges American consumers and leads to artificially-low prices overseas.

“Under our new plan, the Department of Health and Human Services would allow Medicare to determine the prices it pays for certain drugs based on the cheaper prices paid by other nations,” he said.

Trump said, under Medicare, doctors will be paid a flat rate for drug referrals instead of higher fees when they recommend drugs that are more expensive.

“We're taking aim at the global freeloading that forces American consumers to subsidize lower prices in foreign countries through higher prices in our country,” he said.

Belkham said, until something changes, he still plans to buy his inhaler out of the country.

“It's a major problem, and people need to be aware and something needs to change,” he said.

Congress would not need to approve the rules changes. The plan would mostly cover drugs administered in outpatient clinics of doctors’ offices, not general pharmacy prescriptions.