Beware of blister packs

As drug prices continue to rise, here’s a helpful cost containment tip to share with plan members who take maintenance medications: Beware of blister packs.

Blister packs are a type of pre-formed, plastic packaging that seal individual tablets until they are taken.

Blister packs can enhance the integrity of the medication by improving shelf life and providing a barrier against tampering. For individuals who have trouble determining when or how much medication to take, weekly blister packs can help prevent accidental overmedication, as doses can be separated and marked for specific days.

However, unless recommended by a physician or a pharmacist, blister packs may not be necessary, especially for maintenance medications that can be filled in 90-day supplies. For maintenance medications, weekly blister packs can significantly increase costs to plans and plan members.

Pharmacies charge a dispensing fee each time they fill a prescription. One weekly blister pack is considered one prescription fill. To obtain a 90-day supply, a plan member would require 12 blister packs and pay 12 dispensing fees, as opposed to a single dispensing fee for one 90-day supply. Consider the following example for a plan member who takes three maintenance medications, and has these filled at a pharmacy with an $11.75 dispensing fee per prescription:

  • Weekly blister packs: 3 maintenance medications x 12 weekly fills x $11.75 = $423.00
  • 90-day supply: 3 maintenance medications x 1 90-day fill x $11.75 = $35.25

Inform your plan members that they could be charged for each blister pack, and to inquire with their physician or pharmacist to determine if their maintenance medications can be filled in single 90-day supplies.

For more savings, plan members can also shop around for pharmacies with cheaper dispensing fees.