Do you take prescription medication? If so, you know how costly they can be.
More than 4 billion prescriptions are filled per year. Even for people fortunate enough to have health insurance, visits to the doctor and filling prescriptions can add up. There's got to be an easier way to deal with steep prescription prices. Right?
Right. I don't know about you, but on my daily internet travels, I'm inundated with ads for discount Canadian meds and online pharmacies. Forget the fact that I personally have no need for a "90 day supply of Cialis without a prescription!", the rising costs of medication is making me rethink my decision to avoid the black market as a viable career choice.
Generics have long been touted as a low-cost alternative for pricy brand-name drugs. When government regulations mandate that these generics contain the same active ingredient, what's the justification for spending more on a name brand? The binding agents or inactive ingredients vary widely, meaning that some people will react differently to generic versus brand name drugs (especially when making the switch from a brand name to generic drug). Many healthcare companies will also generic medications when it is available.
For years, I've suffered from headaches. Thankfully, the majority of the time it's only a tension headache, but don't let that fool you into thinking that they aren't incredibly painful. However, several times a month, a migraine will rear its ugly head. As any migraine sufferer can tell you, the visual aura and nausea that immediately overwhelms you is debilitating. My doctor recently prescribed Imitrix as treatment. What she didn't tell me was that this tiny prescription for 9 pills generally runs over $100.
Yes, over a hundred. For nine little pills. In the midst of one of my auras, I'll do pretty much anything to get rid of the pain- pay any price. That being said, what if I don't have the money to pay? Should I simply suffer because I can't shell out nearly $17 for each pill?
Another dirty little secret of the drug industry? Pharmacies make their money on generic drugs, so prices are all over the map. While one pharmacy might charge $20 for a generic prescription, another could be only a few dollars, and the one across the street might top $40!
So, what's a cost-conscious consumer to do? Same as any other spending spree, of course- shop around!
Typically, you drive to your nearest drugstore, drop off your form, and await your sentence. But being the frugalista I am, I called three pharmacies in my area, and asked for pricing on the generic and name brand offerings. I expected a few dollars difference. Given that I have health insurance, I also didn't expect that one place would charge me $0, while another would ask $30, and yet another $50 as my co-pay. What gives?
I would never suggest that you waste your time calling every pharmacy in the nearest vicinity. We both know that would be utterly ridiculous, and even if you did save a few dollars, the time you sacrificed would not be worth it. Thankfully, GoodRx does the work for you. Plug in your zip code or city, along with the name and strength of the drug, and this magical site lists the prices for generic and name brand offerings.
Using their website, I was able to best decide where to fill my prescriptions, which ranged from $11.67 by (a completely legal, US-based) mail order to $217 at my local Kmart, and yes, that's still for generic. Name brand offerings ran $223-$276. You can see that it pays to shop around.
Split It Up
You know those little scores you see on some medications, straight down the center? That means it's safe to split- just halve the pill down the center, and you've doubled your medication! Of course, I'm not suggesting that you take matters into your own hands and customize your own dosing schedule. However, you can talk to your doctor about the high cost of filling your prescription. In the past, my doctor has written me a one-month dosage that actually lasts me two-months, by doubling the daily dosage written on the prescription. Ask your health care provider if he or she is willing to do something similar.
There are legal ways of ordering medication online (approved US pharmacies) as well as illegal ways (foreign pharmacies such as our northern neighbors are popular choices). While prices can be much cheaper when secured across the border, this doesn't mean it's regulated the same, or that you're following the law. I'm not advocating that you break the law, but use your judgment when dealing with online pharmacies.
Tell us in the comments: How do you balance prescription needs with your budget?