Saving coin at the drug store

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
July 24, 2008 1:58:07 PM PDT
Everyone is looking for ways to pinch pennies in these tough economic times. And there are ways to save on your prescription medications that you might not realize.Some people are so furious at the cost of prescription drugs that they will do without treatments that are life-saving. But you don't have to deprive yourself of medication necessities if you learn some simple tips on saving money.

It's just a trip to your pharmacy to pick up some drug prescriptions, but you might be in store for sticker shock when it comes to brand-name drugs.

For example, 90 pills of the cholesterol-lowering drug Zocor will run you $500. Volatren, for arthritis, costs $222 for 90 pills. And 90 pills of Lopressor, to treat high blood pressure, will cost $140.

"Consumers should be shopping, should be comparing," said Dr. John Santa, of "Consumer Reports" magazine. "They should have their antennae out."

Consumers should keep their eyes open for pharmacies like Grassy Sprain in Yonkers, where they have a program called Genericare. Rather than brand name, buyers get generics. They are the same drug, FDA approved, sold for less.

"My doctor has prescribed generic drugs wherever possible, and we definitely use that," one area resident said.

And if they come to Grassy Sprain...

"They get 90 pills for $10," Grassy Sprain pharmacist Dr. Anthony Ciarletta said. "So if it's a once-a-day dosage, that's a three-month supply for $10."

So that $500 Zocor bottle is $10. Ninety pills of Voltaren is $10. And 90 pills of Lopressor is $10.

Also, bulk purchase stores such as Costco and Sam's Club, by law, must sell you their drugs, even if you're not a member.

Another way to save money is to get the drug in a pill that is twice the dose prescribed and cut it in half with a pill cutter.

The cutter can't be used on extended-release pills. Ask your doctor which pills you can cut.

Lastly, brand new drugs cost more than older ones that might work just as well, so be careful if the doctor hands you new drug samples. Ask about the older ones.

"Whenever a patient gets samples, the first thing that they should say is what happens when I have to buy this drug, how much is it going to cost me to buy?" Dr. Santa said.

As for online pharmacies, make sure you trust the site and the company, that the drug works for you and that you need it for a long period of time. Older patients should also contact AARP for help deciding on Medicare and other drug plans.

More tips and resources:

  • FDA resource for buying drugs online

  • Compare prescription drug prices for more than 1,000 medications

  • Important information from Consumer Reports about saving money on prescription drugs

  • Created by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, with support from the Health Resources and Services Administration. Provides information on patient assistance programs.

  • Run by the U.S. Administration on Aging - Shows drug assistance programs by state. (800) 677-1116

  • Lists information about state programs, discount drug cards, federal poverty guidelines, and patient assistance programs and includes copies of the forms.

  • Run by Volunteers in Health Care. Allows searches by medicine and manufacturer, and helps find assistance programs nationwide

  • A resource for patient assistance programs. Run by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

  • Links to the Access to Benefits Coalition, a service that allows you to search for public and private programs

  • Partnership for Prescription Assistance: A resource for patient assistance programs. The PPA also will help potential recipients sign up for Medicare Part D coverage. (888) 4PPA-NOW (477-2669).

  • FDA tips for saving on prescription drugs