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Tips to Save Big on Generic Medications

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If you’re interested in saving money on your health-care expenses—and who isn’t?—using generic prescription drugs is a great approach. Studies show that generic medications are 80% to 85% cheaper than comparable brand-name drugs. And in most cases, the medical benefits are equal. In recent years, however, the cost of many generic drugs, including some that have been on the market for decades, has increased dramatically. For example, the generic antibiotic tetracycline has recently jumped from approximately four cents per pill to over $4. Other drugs have risen at an even greater pace. There are several reasons for the increasing cost of generics. For example, some large generic drug manufacturers are merging, thus limiting competition…and safety regulations are tightening, forcing manufacturers to adopt better safeguards to ensure quality products. And some companies hike their prices simply to increase their bottom lines—remember the EpiPen controversy last year? Fortunately, there are ways to save on generic drugs. What I recommend…

• Comparison shop. Pharmacies can charge whatever they want for a generic drug. The problem is, most of us do not compare the prices of generics from one pharmacy to another. But you should! Prices on generic drugs can vary by up to 100% from pharmacy to pharmacy in a local area. And all you need to do is make a few phone calls to compare prices. Don’t forget to check out pharmacies at big discount retailers such as Walmart, Target or Kmart. They have many generics for less than $4 per 30-day supply. Insider tip: Even within the same chain pharmacies, such as Walgreens, Rite Aid or CVS, prices can vary. Caution: If you use several different pharmacies, let each of the pharmacists know all the drugs you use, even the ones not filled at that store. They can then check for any interactions between drugs.

• Look for discount coupons. Many drug manufacturers distribute discount coupons for generic medications. This is their way of getting you to use their drug, but if it works for you, take advantage of the savings. The easiest way to get these coupons is by searching online for “discount coupons for (insert the name of the drug).” Savings can be 50% or more but are generally not usable if combined with any drug insurance you may have. You can also use discount coupon websites, such as GoodRx.com, RxPharmacyCoupons.com or BlinkHealth.com, for discounts ranging from 50% to 95%. These coupons can be used at most pharmacies throughout the country. Insider tip: Using discount coupons while you’re still paying off your drug insurance deductible is a great way to get more for your dollar!

• Buy by mail. Most prescription drug insurance plans offer mail-order delivery, which is almost always cheaper than other options and handled by a reputable company. I get three different generic drugs in 90-day supplies (90 tablets per order) by mail order and save 33% over what I’d pay at my local pharmacy. So if you take a drug regularly, ask your doctor to send the prescription to your mail-order pharmacy. Caution: To ensure quality, use only mail-order pharmacy programs affiliated with major insurers…and avoid online pharmacies, including some Canadian sites. Many have been found to be disreputable, sending wrong pills, wrong dosages and wrong quantities.

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Source: Charles B. Inlander, a consumer advocate and health-care consultant based in Fogelsville, Pennsylvania. He was the founding president of the nonprofit People’s Medical Society, a consumer advocacy organization credited with key improvements in the quality of US health care, and is the author or coauthor of more than 20 consumer-health books. Date: August 1, 2017 Publication: Bottom Line Health
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