Clark Howard: Options to lower prescription prices

Consumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

ClarkHowardPrescription medications can either be very expensive or very cheap, depending on how you get them.

Through my insurance, I have two ways to get prescription meds. I can go through a pharmacy benefit manager, which is essentially like a mail-order pharmacy, and get a 30- to 90-day supply for very little money compared to the going rate in the marketplace. Or I can go directly to a traditional pharmacy and have my script filled at sometimes exorbitant prices.

For example, I have asthma and one script I take is $700 for a three-month supply. But I only pay $40 through my pharmacy benefit manager. That’s a big difference.

I’ve also talked in the past about trying to lower the cost of your prescriptions by printing out the list of $4 generic meds you can get on the websites of Kroger, Target, Walmart and any of a number of other retailers. Take the list with you to your doctor. Then say, “Can you write my script from this list? This is what I can afford.” Sometimes that will work and other times it won’t.

Now the latest wrinkle is that you also can use the power of a smartphone to figure out where to find the cheapest deal on prescriptions meds. There’s a smartphone app called LowestMed Mobile available for both the iPhone and Androids that lets you just pop in the name of the medication and it will shop the marketplace for you to tell you who has the best price in your area.

The thing is, a pharmaceutical company may have a deal with a particular pharmacy based on volume that could make your script a lot cheaper at one place versus the pharmacy where you normally go. This app gives you the opportunity to see the best deal on your prescription. Visit for more information.

-by Clark Howard, Save More, Spend Less, Avoid Rip-offs

Find more answers to your consumer questions at Listen to his radio show live 1-3 p.m. Monday through Friday on WSB 750 AM and 95.5 FM.

8 comments Add your comment

Christopher Upton

April 19th, 2012
5:29 am


You might also consider checking the website of the drug manufacturer for your prescription. Many offer help with the cost of your medicine. I take one medication from Merck that has a $30.00 copay per month with my insurance. I checked Merck’s website and found a deal where I can get 12 prescriptions for my medicine filled for $5.00 per month. So, I say check the drug manufacturers websites and you could find some really good deals.


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April 19th, 2012
10:03 am

Eli Lilly is conducting tests for a new alzheimers drug called Solanezumab. It is the only pharmaceutical currently doing so. If it proves out it would be the biggest money maker to ever hit the market.
Obviously to think in terms of a cure or an effective treatment for this dementia would have far reaching consequences positive for many, many families.
It takes money to develop new medicines and the companies should have an opportunity to make a profit.


April 19th, 2012
10:11 am

The app sounds like something I need to check out. How do I get it for my phone?

Melanie L. Rudisill, Rph

April 19th, 2012
10:12 am

Please, please call me you are terribly misinformed. A prescription benefit manager “PBM” is not a mail-order pharmacy. And your statement that “mail-order” equates to very little money vs “traditional pharmacy” costing exorbitant prices is extremely misleading. Please call a Community Pharmacist and get educated before castigating all of us who are the ‘boots on the ground” when patients have health related problems. Sincerely, Melanie L. Rudisill, RPh, Concord Pharmacy

Bernice Friedman

April 19th, 2012
10:43 am


As a retired nurse, also watching pennies I take a safety issue with your column of 19 April 2012. Many senior citizens are on multiple medications. Some have no idea what these medications are used for. For example, my mother a diabetic with high blood pressure, was given prescriptions by multiple physicians which in fact were duplicates of prescriptions she was taking from other physicians. Due to the fact that they too “shopped” for the best price, she was taking multiple doses of the same medication daily. Her memory was poor and she knew she had to take certain pills at a specific time of day, and had her pills set up. She had no one overseeing her medications as I lived many miles from her home. She was finally hospitalized due to overdoses on blood pressure medications as well as diabetic medications.

Since there was no “primary” pharmacy, to identify duplications, but multiple “best price” pharmacies. In today’s electronic world this duplication should not occur, but it does. Many physicians do not have electronic record keeping, and electronic record keeping is still not the national norm, where there is a national data base to check on pharmaceuticals prescribed by all attending physicians.

Bernice Friedman RN, MA CIC

Johns creek

April 19th, 2012
11:02 am

way too many people take way too many prescription medicines. If you really want to save money, first make sure you really need to take the medicine.

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