The same week that researchers at the University of Pittsburgh concluded that using $4 generic prescription drugs instead of pricier brand-name prescription drugs or other generics could save Americans almost $6 billion dollars, Barclays Capital has come out with their annual analysis of prescription drug prices, and the results will be no surprise to anyone who uses prescription drugs. According to Barclays Capital, the prescription drug prices went up an average of 6.9% in 2010, beating the previous record increase of 6.8% in 2008. (Barclays Capital has been tracking prescription drug prices since 2000).
The prices of prescription drugs treating everything from routine chronic conditions like high blood-pressure, cholesterol and diabetes to catastrophic diseases like leukemmia went up. Atop the heap is Daiichi Sankyo’s blood pressure drug Benicar with an increase of a whopping 29.3%. Other popular prescription drugs with large price increases last year included Johnson & Johnson’s attention deficit disorder (ADD) drug Concerta (up 19.7%), Pfizer’s cholesterol drug Lipitor (up 12.4%) and Plavix by Bristol Myers Squibb and Sanofi-Aventis (up 13.2%).
If the price of your prescription drug(s) are going up, don’t give up! Here are some basic tips that may be able to keep your prescription drugs affordable and you healthy:
Buy Generics. Ask your doctor whether there is a generic or less-expensive equivalent drug which may be available. Generic drugs are the legal copies of brand-name drugs whose patents have expired, and are virtually always a small fraction of the price of the original brand-name. (The generic manufacturer can charge a much lower price because it didn’t have to invest in the research & development and marketing).
If a generic is available, check your local superstore to see if they carry it. A number of superstores have started carrying some generics at very low prices. (Target and Wal-Mart offer a 30-day supply of generics for $4 or a 90-day supply for $10; Costco charges $10 for 100 pills for most generics; and Kmart charges $10 or $15 for 90 days’ worth.) If you do buy generic, remember to check the generic co-pay against its retail price. In some cases, the co-pay may actually be higher than the retail price. It is important to note that not every generic drug may be offered at these low prices. Some generics can cost as much as $40 – $45 dollars for a 30-day supply.
Shop Around. Prescription drug prices can vary widely, even within the same geographic area. If you have a prescription drug plan, your co-pay should stay the same regardless of the pharmacy. However, it you are paying cash, there can be big price differences even among same chain drug stores within a few miles. The cost of your prescription may vary by anywhere from 15% to as much as 100%. If you have a chronic condition which needs prescription drug treatment, online or mail order sources are usually much cheaper than neighborhood pharmacies.
Tell your Physician if You Can’t Afford a Prescription Drug. Absolutely tell your physician if you cannot afford a drug they are prescribing. He or she may know of lower-cost treatment alternatives that may be available. If lower-cost alternatives are not available, your physician can at least make you aware of what you are risking by stopping taking your drugs. Even if you cannot afford your full drug regimen, your doctor may still advise you that there may still be one or two low-cost prescription drugs important to your treatment.
Patient Assistance Programs. Many pharmaceutical companies also offer patients prescription drugs at reduced prices or free through patient assistance programs. Be sure to look into patient assistant programs as well if you are having difficulty paying for your medications. Information can usually be found on the pharmaceutical company’s website.
Ask your Pharmacist if you can Split your Pills. In some cases, a stronger pill may be available for the same co-pay. If so, ask your pharmacist if the pill is suitable for splitting. Not all prescription drugs are suitable for splitting, but if yours are, you may be able to split the pills in half and save half the price or copay. Again, you should ask your pharmacist before you start pill-splitting. If you are able to split your pills, invest in a pill-splitter so you get an accurate split.
Stock Up. If you have a chronic condition, buying larger quantities (such as a three-month supply instead of a one–month supply) is almost always cheaper.
See if a Coupon is Available for your Drug. Some pharmaceutical companies offer coupons for the drugs they market. The dollar amounts and terms and conditions of coupons vary, but some can be quite substantial. Internetdrugcoupons.com is a good resource on what prescription drug coupons may be currently available.
Pharmaceutical Programs. Some pharmaceutical company’s have started programs to help patients pay for their prescription drugs. For example, even though the price of Lipitor has gone up more than 12% last year, Pfizer has also started a $4 co-pay card program for the drug which reduces the Lipitor co-pay costs to as little as $4. If you’re using an expensive brand-name drug, it’s worth your while to ask your doctor or pharmacist whether there are any prescription drug programs that can help you.
Have the prices of your prescription drugs gone up in the last year? Tell us about it!
- AARP Study: Brand Name Prescription Drug Prices Go Up 8% in Last Year
- Pharmaceutical Industry Calls AARP Report On Drug Prices Misleading
- Using $4 Generic Prescription Drugs Could Save Americans Almost $6 Billion Dollars
- Reminder: $4 Generic Prescription Drugs Are Available Without Health Insurance
- Tips: How to Save On Your Prescription Drugs