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Take action against drug switching that hurts patients

  • Dr. Lynn Rankin is board certified in neurology and headache medicine in practice in Des Moines and is a member of the Alliance for Patient Access.

Chronic migraine is a challenging — often debilitating — condition. It causes not only severe headache attacks, sensitivity to environmental stimuli, and fatigue, but also a host of other issues, from anxiety and depression to social isolation. Far too often, though, just when patients get their migraines under control, they’re forced off their treatments to something less effective and less tolerable.

This decision is made not by patients and their clinician, but by bureaucrats at insurance companies. And this practice, known as non-medical switching, has little to do with medicine or what’s best for patients.

In fact, non-medical switching is quite the opposite. It’s about dollars and cents, driven by insurers’ bottom lines. Clinicians widely view it as having a negative impact on quality of care as well as downstream adverse health or employment outcomes. But still, non-medical switching continues, with each insurance company making their own willy-nilly rules.

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