Dealing with health issues from asthma to depression, some students at MVHS rely on daily medication to make their lives easier. However, prescription drugs can be expensive, with costs ranging anywhere from $30 to over $1,000, and the contracts that each organization arranges with drug manufacturers are kept entirely confidential. Certain laws allow groups like the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) to pay a lower price, and if Prop 61 is passed, it would forbid state agencies, like Medi-cal, from paying more than whatever amount the VA paid.
This — hypothetically — lowers drug prices, according to BALLOT.FYI, a website dedicated to providing objective information about California’s state propositions.. Yet BALLOT.FYI explains that it’s also possible that drug manufacturers would refuse to sell the drug at a lower price. Since Prop 61 would make it illegal for state agencies to buy drugs at a price higher than the VA, state agencies would be left in the dark without their much-needed medication. It’s also possible that if Prop 61 were passed, drug manufacturers would raise drug prices for the VA so that both the VA and state agencies are paying higher prices.
But if the proposition works the way it’s intended to, it would lead to lower prices on the medications that aid the lives of so many individuals. And in keeping with Prop 61, El Estoque set out to find just how significant medication is in students’ lives.
“There’s a lot of stigma around medication, especially for like mental health,” senior Olive Wu said. “A lot of people, like media and other sources, they go like ‘oh, medication can change your mood.’”
Wu takes Zoloft and Trazodone every day — Zoloft for their depression and anxiety, Trazodone for sleep. Without medication, Wu isn’t sure how their life would be. Their depression has gotten better, through what Wu accredits to a combination of both therapy and their medication.
The medication has aided them in fighting depression in immeasurable ways that are beyond a mental mindset.
“One day last year… I was just walking around school and I was super bubbly that day, and that’s usually not me,” Wu said. “And I was like ‘Wow...This is happy!’ So it’s just those subtle differences like that that make you realize ‘Wow this is working, it’s not my fault, it was some chemical thing.’”
The daily medication racks up high prices easily. The price of 60 milliliters of Zoloft at a concentration of 20 mg/mL is about $200. Wu takes 150 milligrams of Zoloft daily, so $200 worth of medication would last her roughly 8 days. Fortunately, their insurance covers most of it, reducing much of the financial stress the medication places on their parents. But Wu has still noticed their mother’s subtle nuances, the small actions that reveal that their parents are still intently keeping track of the medication’s costs.
“I can always see [my mom] kind of measuring out medication for herself and both for me and being like ‘okay,... if I refill it then, I’ll have to pay more and it’s out of my pocket and not from insurance’ and stuff like that,” Wu said.
A junior, who chose to remain anonymous since she felt uncomfortable disclosing information about her health issues, said the total cost for her medications, including the amount insurance pays, adds up to a minimum of $720 per year. She takes two medications at different times throughout the day, one of which is for her anemia, caused by a shortage of iron necessary to produce hemoglobin for red blood cells.
She’s not the only one that would struggle without medication. Freshman Zara Iqbal agrees with how necessary it is that she take her medication. Iqbal has severe seasonal allergies as well as asthma, and without her inhaler and allergy medication, she can’t function comfortably in school. She takes Zyrtec, a medication that used to be a prescription medication when it was first released in 2001, but has since changed to an over-the-counter drug.
“It’d be really hard to go throughout the day because I wouldn’t be able to concentrate and I’d just be blowing my nose all the time,” Iqbal said. “I also need to take my inhaler every day before P.E. and if I don’t it gets really bad, and I won’t be able to do the regular runs that we do and that’s ... humiliating because I can’t do the things that other kids can do.”
These students are just three of the many students that rely on their prescription drugs to help make their day flow smoothly. And for them, they don’t swallow every pill thinking about its price — it’s just another part of their routine. But for others who depend on medications, their costs have a larger impact. That’s where Prop 61 comes into play, by offering the potential of aid for those who routinely use prescription drugs.
“There are so many people that cannot afford such expensive medicines. There’s definitely a lot of people who face the same health issues and having slashed prices really does a lot,” the anonymous junior said. “When it comes between paying for medicine and paying for food, food takes priority and sometimes that medicine is just as vital.”