“My mama told me, you’d better shop around.”
The lyrics of the song by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles ring true about many of our decisions, including relationships and many retail purchases. But most of us don’t comparison shop when it comes to prescription drugs.
Patients with insurance paid $49 billion out-of-pocket for prescription drugs in 2011, down from $50.8 billion in 2010, according to a study by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, an international company that tracks healthcare statistics. The U.S. spends more than $300 billion in total on prescriptions each year, a number declining largely due to consumers getting savvier about drug pricing, experts say.
“Saving on prescriptions is a high-ticket savings strategy if you know where to look,” says Stephanie Nelson, who runs the website CouponMom.com. “If you do have insurance, you may save on co-pays if your doctor prescribes a longer supply of a regular Rx, such as 90 days instead of 30 days.”
Nelson also suggests visiting drug companies’ websites and signing up for email lists to receive coupons — or doing a web search to find coupons beyond the manufacturer’s site.
“I have a prescription that is covered by insurance, but its co-pay is $60,” she says. “By using the one-year discount card I got free from the company website, I save $40 per monthly prescription, which is nearly a $500 annual savings.”
Take advantage of transfer deals pharmacies offer, Nelson says. For example, if you transfer a prescription to Kroger, you’ll receive a $25 Kroger gift card. CVS will even accept competitors’ pharmacy transfer coupons found in weekly newspaper circulars.
“I save all the time with discount prescription cards given by your doctors,” says Trish Peters, an Atlanta resident. “My dermatologist gave me a card for Cloderm,” a topical ointment for her kids’ eczema, the 29-year-old says. “Retail price is $89. My cost was zero dollars with the card, good for three refills.”
Here are some other tips to save money on medicine that would make mama proud:
1. Call around. Getting the best price doesn’t mean you have to travel far and wide. Call your closest three pharmacies and ask how much each charges for your prescriptions.
2. Compare or order online. Sites like LocalDrugSearch.com list some area pharmacy prices for comparison. If, however, you’re considering buying online, consult the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy for its Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) — accredited businesses that comply with state and federal regulations.
3. Get the card. The Georgia Drug Card can save you up to 75 percent at pharmacies if you don’t have primary insurance. Print it out for free at GeorgiaDrugCard.com and present it with your prescriptions.
4. Find savings programs. Some pharmacies provide common or generic drugs for less than your morning latte. For example, you can find generic depression drug Citalopram at Walmart for just $4 or generic diabetes medication Metformin at Publix for free.
– By Lauren Davidson, Atlanta Bargain Hunter