The cost of prescriptions is rapidly becoming the most expensive part of our health care. Presently there is very little control over the price that manufacturers are charging and it’s costing us and our country dearly.

You’ve probably heard about companies like Valeant who successfully increased the cost of medications and are not being held responsible for this change. You’ve probably heard about the ridiculous price of Epipens, the price increases for AIDS medications propagated by everyone’s favorite drug villain Martin Shkreli, and essential medications for patients with Wilson’s Disease that used to cost 100’s of dollars a year now costing them $300,000 a year.

Generic medications are no longer the cheapest option because drug manufacturers have unique contracts with certain insurance companies that allow their branded products to be “cheaper” than the generics. If you have a high deductible or HSA health plan, you’re the one paying these vastly inflated prices. Pharmacy and insurance company shareholders and stocks are loving it, but your wallet is paying for it.

Pharmacists are not allowed to tell you about cheaper options. Most pharmaceutical and insurance companies have enacted gag orders for pharmacists so they are legally not allowed to help you. This is frustrating, confusing, and expensive for doctors, for the country, and for you.

There are a few things that you can do to try and combat this change.

First of all, be your own advocate. Do not automatically pay for a medication if it seems ridiculously expensive. Doctors really can’t effectively keep up with the changing prices of the medications we prescribe. Deals and contracts are changing faster than even our electronic medical records can keep up. So ask before you swipe that credit card. Ask if there are any cheaper options. If you do ask, the pharmacist can help you; if you don’t, they can’t. Ask your pharmacist about coupons. Once again, if you ask, they can help you; if you don’t, they can’t.

It’s a mad, mad world where a few people are making a lot of money and you and I are paying for it. Until there is some action taken by the powers that have influence, these prices will continue to rise. Until then, be careful, be wise, ask questions, and make sure you’re getting the best deal possible before you swipe that card.