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Apr 16, 2013

Save Money with These Prescription Drug Secrets

Following these tips and shopping around could help you save $100 or more a month depending on the drug.

Most Americans take at least one prescription drug and costs can add up quickly, especially for those with multiple prescriptions. But according to the May issue of Consumer Reports, shopping around could help patients save $100 or more a month depending on the drug.

Consumer Reports compared prices for five best-selling drugs that are now available in generic form: Actos for diabetes, Lexapro for depression, Lipitor for high cholesterol, the blood thinner Plavix, and Singulair for asthma. After calling more than 200 pharmacies across the country, investigators found that prices varied by as much as $749 between the lowest and highest priced stores. In general, they found that Costco and other warehouse stores were significantly cheaper than pharmacies such as CVS and Rite Aid. For example, generic Lipitor will set you back $150 when purchased at CVS but only costs $17 at Costco. Similarly, the generic Plavix was quoted by CVS at $180, yet only costs $12 through Healthwarehouse.com and $15 at Costco.

Why the difference? Experts say that pharmacies like CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens rely on pharmacy sales for profit, whereas larger stores like Costco and Walmart see drug sales as a way to help get people in the door. In other words, larger stores are willing to set lower prescription drug prices since they make most of their profit from other products sold in the store. But prices vary within each store and it’s important to shop around to find the best price for prescriptions. And Consumer Reports identified a few additional tips for saving:

  • Shoppers aren’t always given the lowest price for their prescriptions right off the bat, so make sure to ask pharmacists for their best possible price.
  • Go with generics instead of brand-name drugs when possible. Generics deliver the same active medication at a lower cost.
  • Consumer Reports found that drug prices were much more expensive in cities compared to more rural areas. If possible, look into getting your prescriptions outside the city to help save money.
  • Some pharmacies offer discounts on 90-day vs. 30-day drug supplies. Try to buy in bulk to save you both time and money.
  • Do your research! Many pharmacies offer discount drug programs, so shop around to find the program that’s right for you.

Questions for You to Consider

  • Are generic drugs the same as name-brand drugs?
  • Yes. Generic drugs have the same active ingredients as their brand-name relatives, although they may look slightly different and contain different inactive ingredients. Research shows that generics work just as well as brand-name drugs.
  • What is a generic drug?
  • Generic drugs are essentially copies of brand-name drugs created after the brand’s patent expires. Generics are comparable to brand-drugs, containing the same active ingredients and proven to work just as well as brand-name alternatives.

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