March 5, 2014
Prescription Drugs: It Pays to Shop Around
I’ve written periodically about prescription drug costs. It’s a subject of interest for almost everyone I know.
The February 2014 edition of the Harvard Health Letter featured an article – “Save Money on Your Prescription Medications” – with several helpful suggestions, and a few we’ve heard before. I thought they were worth sharing.
Especially if you have no insurance – or Rx insurance with a high deductible – it makes sense to shop around. Prices for the same drug can vary sharply from one pharmacy to another, since some drugstores get their supplies directly from manufacturers, while others use “middle-man” wholesalers.
Call a few local pharmacies before dropping off your prescriptions. Some of them may say “Sorry, we can’t check prices without first entering a prescription into the computer.” Others may give you helpful answers. Calling might very well pay off.
Use Big Box Stores
That’s another suggestion we’ve seen before, since some of them regularly offer among the lowest prices. Retailers like Walmart, Kmart, Target – and grocery chains like Kroger and Publix -- offer many generics for as little as $4 and $10 for 30- and 90-day supplies. The pharmacists there can supply a list of these drugs. Since they may not offer the information on their own, it pays to ask.
Join a Program
While they usually include income and other eligibility requirements, prescription assistance programs are available through drug manufacturers like Eli Lilly (855-559-8783) and Pfizer (866-706-2400). Even if the meds aren’t always free through these programs, they may offer discount coupons.
If you think you might qualify, check with a non-profit service like NeedyMeds (800-503-6897) or the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (888-477-2669).
Get a Policy Update
For people on Medicare’s part D plan, it might help to ask the pharmacist for the part D annual report. Premiums, copays, and deductibles change every year. The pharmacist can plug in the meds she knows you take, and then show you which plan best suits your needs. You can do this exercise yourself at www.medicare.gov.
Use the Internet
Here’s a suggestion many people probably don’t know: Using a variety of free online sites, you can plug your zipcode and meds into the search box, hit enter, and actually see the retail prices that all pharmacies in your area are charging for your pills.
Try it. You can use (or download) programs like WeRx (www.werx.org) and LowestMed (www.lowestmed.com). The article’s writer at Harvard searched for the local prices for the cholesterol-lowering drug lovastatin, and found responses from $5 to $46.
Many states offer such online price-comparison services through their attorney general’s office. For example, Floridians can search www.myfloridarx.com, and Michiganders can go to www.MichiganDrugPrices.com.
It pays to shop around.