Over the last 12 months, one-quarter of Americans have experienced an increase in the cost of their prescription medication, according to Consumer Reports. The organization's Best Buy Drugs Prescription Costs and Concerns nationally representative survey found six out of ten patients with rising medication costs looked into ways to save money on their medication during this timeframe.
The most common action was to ask a pharmacist or physician for a less expensive drug, with more than one-third trying this step. Worryingly, 14 percent did not bother to fill their prescription at all and 37 percent decided to simply pay the higher price. More than one in ten shopped online for a lower price, while 17 percent saved money using discount coupons from sites such as RxSpark.
Consumer Reports found there were a number of strategies used by patients to keep prescription prices to a minimum and reign in their rising prescription prices, including calling insurers to see if they would cover more of the cost and asking pharmacists for lower prices on the same drug. Here are five questions to ask yourself before purchasing medication to help keep your healthcare and prescription drug costs down.
Is insurance really the cheapest option?
Insurance may not necessarily provide the cheapest prices for medication. Pharmaceutical companies sometimes offer discounts on expensive branded drugs. Alternatively, pharmacies often stock cheaper generic drugs or offer discount programs to help patients keep prices low. Earlier this year, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America launched its Share the Savings campaign to highlight the high prices paid by many patients and that discounts negotiated with insurance companies are not always passed on to the consumers.
Is there a cheaper generic alternative?
Generic medication is required to have the same efficacy and active ingredients as branded medication, but are often significantly cheaper. Last year the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved 630 abbreviated new drug applications and 183 generic drugs, the highest in the history of the generic drug program. Among the newest to appear in pharmacies are generics for Viagra, Tamiflu and Crestor.
Are you getting the lowest prices at your pharmacy?
Consumer Reports noted previous secret shopper surveys revealed patients who asked for the "lowest possible price" often found their pharmacy could provide cheaper prices through discount programs cards and coupons. Remember, if you don't ask you don't get!
Does another pharmacy offer a lower price?
Prescription medication prices are not regulated, so costs vary significantly between pharmacies. Doing a price comparison on RxSpark, shoppers can quickly find which local pharmacies offers the lowest price for their medication. Even if you have insurance this can help you save. Consumer Reports noted that in some cases, price comparison online can save patients up to 75 percent on the price of medication such as Pravachol (pravastatin) by switching to a different pharmacy.
Is there a non-drug option?
Medication does not always hold the solution to every medical problem. In some cases, there may be non-drug options to help alleviate symptoms. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy may help patients suffering from sleep problems or depression. Physical therapy, acupuncture or lifestyle changes - such as getting more exercise and changes of diet - may also prove effective. To find out more about your treatment options, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.