6 Ways to Save Money and Hassle on Your Prescription Medications
6 Ways to Save on Prescription Medication Costs
Same Drug, Big Price Differences
When Consumer Reports’ secret shoppers called 200 or so pharmacies in six U.S. cities, they found that, even within the same zip code, common prescriptions could cost as much as 10 times more at one retailer versus another if you pay out of pocket.
Case in point:The cost for a month’s worth of the generic form of Cymbalta (duloxetine) in Raleigh, North Carolina — a drug used to treat depression and certain kinds of pain — ranged from 9 at a Walgreens to only at Costco’s pharmacy (and surprisingly, you don’t have to be a Costco member to use their pharmacy).
In Dallas, a shopper was quoted a price of 0 for the generic form of Plavix (clopidogrel) at a CVS. But a few calls later, we found it at an independent pharmacy just a 20-minute drive away — for .
Here’s how to get the best deals:
1. Ask for the 'Lowest Possible Price'
If you arrive at the pharmacy counter and find that your prescription costs are higher than you expected, you don’t have to simply pay and walk away — you might have options. Start by asking, “Is this your lowest price?” A good pharmacist will also dig for available discount programs, cards, and coupons.
2. Consider Not Using Your Insurance
Whether you get your prescriptions through a chain, mom-and-pop, or big-box store pharmacy, in some cases the prescription might cost less if youdon’tuse your insurance. For example, you could pay as little as for a one-month supply, or for three months' worth. That’s because even if you have a standard co-pay, out-of-pocket costs for drugs vary by pharmacy and might be less than your co-pay. (Keep in mind that if you don't use your insurance, what you pay for your medication won’t count toward your deductible or out-of-pocket maximums.)
3. Find Out What the ‘Fair Price’ of Your Drug Is
Look up your drug’s “fair price,” the maximum price that you should pay for the drug at a local pharmacy, which you can find at the drug price comparison website GoodRx.com. Knowing that amount could help you negotiate a better deal.
4. Comparison Shop
If your pharmacist still quotes a high price, call around to other drugstores. Don’t leave out independent pharmacies; they may have more flexibility to match or beat competitors’ prices.
5. Consider Using an Online Pharmacy
You can also fill a prescription with an online pharmacy such as HealthWarehouse.com, or with one endorsed by your insurance company. Just be careful about which one you choose: Only use an online retailer that clearly operates within the United States and displays the VIPPS symbol to show that it’s a Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site.
6. Talk to Your Doctor and Pharmacist About Saving Money
Keeping your drug costs manageable can be time-consuming and often frustrating, so don’t go it alone. In addition to working closely with your pharmacist, be sure your doctor is aware that, in addition to safety and effectiveness, costs are important to you. Discuss switching to generics and other lower-cost equally effective alternatives, and even cutting out drugs you no longer need. Ask for a 90-day prescription rather than a 30-day one. Doing so could mean you pay a lower co-pay.
Ginger Skinner is a health editor at Consumer Reports. For more money-saving ideas and tips, visit the Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs website, and follow Skinner and Best Buy Drugs on Twitter @CRBestBuyDrugs.
Copyright 2019, Consumer Reports
Editor's Note: These materials were made possible by a grant from the state Attorney General Consumer and Prescriber Education Grant Program, which is funded by a multistate settlement of consumer fraud claims regarding the marketing of the prescription drug Neurontin (gabapentin).
Photo Credit: Ted Russell/Getty Images
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