I was surprised to see the following ill-informed move by PacifiCare that has the potential to seriously harm thousands. Every expert (and many patients) I've talked to has said the new medications are a quantum leap better than the older meds. Any suggestions on how we can fight these moves? - Brian.

PacifiCare (California) pays only for Older Medications

CYPRESS, Calif. Jan. 23 -- PacifiCare of California has said that it will no longer pay for many of its members to receive new anti-psychotic drugs, including Prozac and the new schizophrenia drug Risperdal.
The Orange County Register newspaper says today (Thursday) that psychiatrists, advocates for the mentally ill and consumer groups accuse the HMO of putting cost-cutting measures ahead of patient health care. PacifiCare says it will no longer cover dozens of mental illness prescription drugs for some 300,000 members moved by their employers into a cheaper prescription plan earlier this year. Some patients will be compelled to take medication developed decades ago that doctors say has severe side effects and is less effective than newer drugs.

Company officials say that although the decision to cut the anti- depressant medication Prozac was aimed at cutting costs, the decision to remove Risperdal from the list was not financial. A PacifiCare spokesman says the company decided against paying for Risperdal prescriptions because too little is known about its safety. The Register newspaper says a month's supply of Risperdal, introduced in 1994, costs about $240, compared to $2.50 for the same amount of Haldol, a 38-year-old substitute with side effects such as uncontrollable shaking, restlessness and stiffness.

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