The cost of medication is something that varies a lot more than you might realize, depending on where you get your prescription filled. It pays to shop around.
Dr. Eric Crall with River Jordan Direct Family Medicine in Lutz makes a point of helping patients save money on their prescriptions.
"If I want to prescribe a certain medicine, I know which pharmacy I can send my patient to for $4 a month or free," Crall said.
We have essentially seen a prescription price war develop over the past several years.
"It’s so competitive now, they all have a $4 list," Crall said. "It did start with Walmart, but just about any pharmacy now has a $4 list."
The trick to finding those bargain prices: Ask your pharmacy for its $4 list or look it up on line. And it doesn’t stop there. Supermarket chain Publix is in the game, too, upping the ante and offering several popular medications for free.
Crall’s patient Susan Timoney started saving $20 a month after the doctor told her she could get her blood pressure medicine for free at Publix.
"Everything else is so expensive, so if you can get your medications for free, it’s great," she said.
Pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens that depend primarily on prescription sales to make money generally have higher prices. In exchange, they offer conviences such as drive-thru windows and 24-hour service. Co-pays for those with insurance also can vary from store to store, depending on the medication and insurnace plan.
Many people don’t realize insurance and pharmaceutical companies negotiate different prices with different stores. You often see higher prices in the city versus rural areas.
"It’s totally driven by population. and so if there’s more traffic in a certain area, that’s going to drive the price up," explained health insurance broker Carrie Krieger, a vice president with Juster and Associates. "Even between two different Walgreens or two different CVS stores, they could have different price points, depending on where they’re located."
Kreiger recommends using price comparison tools on websites like GoodRX.com to shop for the best prices.
What you pay can vary – sometimes drastically-- from store to store. For example, GoodRX.com showed the cost for Lipitor, the popular cholesterol medication, was $40.98 at CVS, compared to only $13.10 at Wal-Mart.
GoodRX.com offers coupons and discounts to get the better prices. You print them out and take them to the store, generally, paying out of pocket, instead of using insurance.
"The downside to that is on many plans right now anything you spend goes toward your maximum outlay for the year, so you wouldn’t be getting credit for that," explained Krieger.
Even so, the savings are often worth it.
"It can be more than $500 a month savings, especially on some of the costlier medicines," Crall said.
Bottom line—when it comes to your prescriptions—shop around. You just might be surprised at how much you’ll save.
EXTRA TIPS TO SAVE ON PRESCRIPTIONS:
- Try ordering a 90-day supply of a prescription, rather than just a 30-day supply. These can be ordered through your pharmacy or, with some insurance plans, a mail-order pharmacy.
- If it’s a new medicine, check to see if you can get 12 months for free. Drug companies often do that to get initial market share and interest in their new product.
- Ask your doctor for free samples to help off-set costs.
- Check the drug manufacturer’s website for coupons or discount cards.
Watch the video clip to hear Dr. Crall explain the most common medications offered for four-dollars or free at area pharmacies.