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Go Generic

Nancy Trejos

Most everyone is looking for ways to cut down on their expenses these days. Unfortunately, some people have taken this to an extreme.

In a recent Consumer Reports survey of 2,004 people, 28 percent said they have tried to save money on medication by not filling prescriptions, skipping doses and cutting pills in half without their doctors’ approval. Needless to say, this is not a healthy way to cut costs. There are better ways to go about this.

First of all, don’t snub generic drugs. The pharmaceutical industry has done a good job of making us all believe that brand name drugs are always better than generics. This is not true.The Food and Drug Administration stipulates that generic drugs must be the same as its brand-name version in “dosage, safety, strength, how it is taken, quality, performance and intended use.”

On average, the generic drug costs $85 less than the comparable brand name alternative, said Tracey Baker, who co-authored “Navigating Your Health Benefits for Dummies” with Aetna official Charles M. Cutler.

So when your doctor hands you a prescription, ask if you can go generic. If your doctor prescribes you a drug that does not have a generic version, Baker advises asking your pharmacist if there is a similar, less expensive alternative. Then go back to your doctor and ask if you should take that brand.

Another way to cut your drug expenses is to fill your prescriptions though a mail order program. Many will give you two or three months’ worth of drugs for the price of one. If you have insurance, see if your health plan has a deal with pharmacy benefit managers such as Express Scripts, Caremark or Medco, which process drug claims and often give discounts if you order medication in bulk through the mail. Even if you don’t have insurance, these companies have good mail order programs.

There are also legitimate online pharmacies that can save you money. The National Association of Pharmacies recommends that patients only use sites accredited through its Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) program. Many illegitimate online pharmacies, often operating overseas, peddle expired or fake drugs.

Lastly, check out your local Walmart, Neighborhood Market or Sam’s Club pharmacy. They have a $4 Prescriptions Program. That’s $4 for a 30-day supply and $10 for 90 days. K-Mart has a similar program.

By Nancy Trejos  |  May 27, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Bargains , Nancy Trejos  
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Well, I do all of the above, but I'm still going to chop pills in half. In summer, my daughter needs OTC medicine for hay fever (Claritin, Zyrtec, that sort of thing). The kids' version is more than twice as expensive as the grownup version -- and the grownup version is exactly twice the dose (10 mg vs. 5 mg). So I buy the grownup version and cut the pills in half, rather than pay twice the price for half as much.

Posted by: laura33 | May 27, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

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