Maria Greenwald, MD: Physician Knowledge of Prescription Cost Burden

Maria Greenwald, MD, rheumatologist, discusses what she sees as a glaring issue in medicine—the lack of knowledge among many physicians as to how much treatments will cost and how to mitigate the impact of those costs.

Along with new data on therapies and trends in rheumatology, one of the most discussed topics at the Congress of Clinical Rheumatology (CCR) West 2019 annual meeting in San Diego, CA is the cost burden of treatments for many rheumatic conditions.

The unfortunate reality for many patients—no matter how early they are identified or whether symptoms are under control—is that they may need to switch medications or forgo it completely if insurance coverage or the prices change.

Compounding this issue is the fact that many physicians feel helpless when offering advice to patients on a possible remedy for this. Until recently, one of those clinicians was Maria Greenwald, MD, a rheumatologist with Desert Medical Advances, who described herself as “ignorant” on the subject until a recent study she conducted and presented at CCR West 2019.

Greenwald’s study examined how often patients faced issues in obtaining a prescription and what steps a clinician can take if asked how to reduce cost burden or whether or not there was a cheaper alternative available. To get a better understanding of the current state of knowledge among physicians for reducing cost burden, MD Magazine® sat down with Greenwald between sessions at CCR West for firsthand perspective.

MD Mag: What is the current state of physician knowledge when it comes to cost burden of prescription drugs?

Greenwald: Well, I think that at clinical conferences, such as the Clinical Congress of Rheumatology here, that we should be discussing prices of the medicines that we prescribe. I find, in general, physicians are ignorant—I certainly was for how much different things cost.

You can look up list prices in Medical Letter, which is a well-established journal that lists prices of drugs, but if a physician doesn't involve themselves and look that up they won't know. So, I find the doctors are frequently ignorant of pricing and costs and the patients are, certainly, ignorant of pricing and costs.

I'd like to see the subject come up routinely at different conferences of different medicine specialties and I'd like to have the patients be more aware perhaps through a public education program.