|

10 ways to reduce your drug costs

Last updated: March 2009

1. Talk with your doctor about cost

Nearly half of the people in our January 2009 drug survey said that their doctors don't consider cost when prescribing medications. And earlier Consumer Reports surveys of doctors found that physicians ranked price as their least important consideration when prescribing drugs. (How well the drug worked was their first concern.) In fact, the doctors said they often don't know how much the drugs they prescribe cost. So you need to be assertive and tell your doctor that cost, as well as effectiveness, matters.

2. Eliminate unnecessary drugs

That saves money at the same time that it lowers your risk of side effects and drug interactions. Review all of your medications with your doctor or pharmacist at least every six months, eliminating duplicate or unnecessary drugs or adjusting dosages that are higher than necessary.

3. Ask for generics

They're much cheaper—and just as safe and effective—as their brand-name counterparts. For example, to treat allergies, you could take the brand-name drug Claritin for up to $37 a month, or its generic version, loratadine, for less than $12. Both drugs are available without a prescription.

If a generic isn't available, ask if your doctor can substitute a different, cheaper drug that works just as well. For example, instead of treating osteoarthritis with celecoxib (Celebrex) for nearly $300 a month, you may be able to get by with ibuprofen (Advil and generic) instead. The generic form of that drug costs just $21 a month and can be purchased without a prescription. Or instead of the cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor, which typically costs about $100 a month, you may be able to use the related drug lovastatin for about $18 a month.

4. Ask your doctor if you can safely split your pills

You may be able to save money if your doctor can prescribe a pill that's twice your normal dose, so you could split it in half. To make the practice safe, only divide pills that are scored, use a pill-splitting device, and never split extended- or continued-release tablets. Divide one pill at a time and take the halves as consecutive doses so that you don't get too much or too little. But don't split pills without the permission of your doctor or pharmacist.

5. Shop around

In Consumer Reports' June 2008 report, Costco pharmacies offered the biggest savings overall. Web sites such as AARP.orgCVS.comDrugstore.comFamilymeds.com, and Homemed.com also offer inexpensive choices, and DestinationRx can help you compare drugs and prices.

Many grocery stores and big-box stores, such as Costco and WalMart, now offer hundreds of generics for $4 or less—though independent pharmacy owners tell us that most mom-and-pop pharmacies will match those prices if you ask.

Be wary, however, of international Internet drug sites that are unregulated and may sell counterfeit or contaminated drugs. Stick with pharmacies that carry the VIPPS (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site) seal, which is awarded by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.

6. Avoid free samples

They can end up costing you more in the long run because if you stick with the drug, which is usually an expensive, brand-name one, your doctor will eventually have to write a prescription for it. Plus, it may not be the best choice for your treatment.

7. Be wary of TV drug ads

They usually pitch the newest drugs, which are not only more expensive but also often work no better than older ones. And all too often, drug ads omit safety or side-effect information. See our Consumer Reports Health AdWatch series for examples of how some TV drug ads omit or minimize safety and side-effect information.

8. Get the right insurance

The right drug plan can save you big bucks. For advice on navigating the complex world of health insurance, whether you work for yourself or a large employer or if you're retired, see Health-care plans.

9. Get help

Pharmaceutical companies offer a certain amount of free or lows-cost medication through their patient assistance programs. Use the online directory RxAssist to see if there's one that can help you.

10. Check out our Best Buy Drug reports

We rate 21 of the most common drug classes, including those used to treat allergiesdepression,heart attackheart failureheartburnhigh blood pressure, and high cholesterol. The reports combine background materials about the disease, an expert review of the scientific evidence, and pricing information.

   

E-mail Newsletters

FREE e-mail Newsletters!
Choose from cars, safety, health, and more!
Already signed-up?
Manage your newsletters here too.

Latest From Consumer Reports

LAUNDRY DETERGENT REVIEWS
Doing laundry in cold water will save you loads Video But you have to pick the right detergent to get everything clean.
CAR SAFETY GUIDE
What you need to know about the Takata air bag recallVideo Find out what actions you should take in the wake of this recall.
KIDS' TABLET REVIEWS
7 questions to answer before you buy a kids' tabletVideo Our tips will help you make the best choice for your child.
LEAF BLOWER REVIEWS
Cordless outdoor yard gear gets a power makeoverVideo GreenWorks and Worx lead the charge in battery-powered equipment.
BEST BUY DRUGS
8 ways to save big on your medication Major retailer discount drug programs can be cheaper than using insurance.
Shopping websites Outlet stores Cats Money 2014 Shopping Money Outlet stores Shopping december Consumer Reports magazine
OUTLET MALL GUIDE
Get the the inside dope on outlet malls and storesVideo Not everything is a bargain, but you can score some good deals.

Connect

and safety with
subscribers and fans

Follow us on:

Cars

Cars New Car Price Report
Find out what the dealers don't want you to know! Get dealer pricing information on a new car with the New Car Price Report.

Order Your Report

Mobile

Mobile Get Ratings on the go and compare
while you shop

Learn more