The People's Perspective on Medicine

Show 1197: How You Can Save Money on Medicines

Prices of prescription drugs have been rising at a rapid rate. Find out how you can save money on medicines and share your tips with other listeners.
Lisa Gill, Consumer Reports
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How You Can Save Money on Medicines

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Have your pharmacy bills been going up? When Consumer Reports surveyed its readers, 30 percent of them reported that their cost for a drug they take on a regular basis rose during 2019. About 12 percent of readers said their costs had soared by at least $100. What is going on here, and how can you save money on medicines that you need?

No Caps on Drug Prices:

An article in the January issue of Consumer Reports points out that there are no laws or regulations that would cap drug prices. Manufacturers get to charge whatever they think they can make. Until recently, most consumers had no idea how much their medicines cost, because they owed only a modest copay. Now, though, many insurance companies are demanding that patients pay more, possibly as much as 20 to 30 percent of the retail price. That can add up fast when a drug costs hundreds or thousands of dollars a month.

We spoke with the author of the article, Lisa Gill, about how you can save money on medicines. She shared plenty of good ideas you won’t want to miss. It makes sense to ask your doctor how much the treatment will cost. Sometimes a nonprescription medication will work nearly as well as the prescription your doctor is about to write. However, the physician may not be fully aware of the price.

Another option you may not have considered is negotiating with the pharmacist. Sometimes paying cash, without using your insurance, results in a lower bill. Websites like GoodRx.com or BlinkHealth.com can give you comparative shopping information as well as discount coupons.

Share Your Tips on Making Medicines Affordable:

We are certain that our listeners have also found plenty of ways to make their medicines more affordable. Email us or call in your suggestions Saturday, January 25, 2020, between 7 and 8 am EST. The number is 888-472-3366. Be sure to listen, as you may hear some ideas on saving money that you hadn’t considered before.

This Week’s Guest:

Lisa Gill is deputy content editor of Best Buy Drugs for Consumer Reports. The website is www.consumerreports.org/cro/health/prescription-drugs/best-buy-drugs/index.htm

Her article is here: https://www.consumerreports.org/drug-prices/the-shocking-rise-of-prescription-drug-prices/

You may also find our eGuide to Saving Money on Medicines of interest.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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We are using GoodRX. Kroger is cheaper than any drug stores. We are getting drugs filled cheaper at Kroger than with using our prescription cards.

I would encourage you not to insult physicians for not knowing the cost of drugs. Referring to the plumbing analogy, your plumber would be expected to know about every aspect of not only the pipes and how they work, but the electricity, the heat and air, the flooring, the windows, the foundation, keep up with the constantly changing research and recommendations on how to treat each of those systems, not to mention understand the ins and outs of each customer’s individual insurance plan and specific version of their plan. (And I should add that this plumber could cause harm or death to his customers if he did not know the above.) It is not feasible to expect that plumber to know the price of everything used to repair every part of the house. Yes, providers should be familiar with how to direct themselves, their staff, and their patients to look into the best possible pricing of their medications. But please don’t name-call doctors (clueless and deer-in-headlights were used in your show) for not knowing, off the top of their heads, the price of medications. There is too much else to know to take the best care of our patients. And mocking physicians on the air has the potential to undermine the trust patients have in their physicians to take the best possible care of them.

Dr. T.,

I apologize for offending you. It was insensitive of me.

It is my understanding that most physicians have a limited number of go-to medications in their arsenal. In other words, most doctors tend to pick one ARB-type blood pressure med rather then 5 or 6. Ditto for cholesterol-lowering drugs or diabetes medications. Does it seem too onerous to know the rough price of the medicines you frequently prescribe? If patients cannot afford their medicine and do not take it, your efforts would be diminished.

Joe

Be careful about splitting pills to save money, i.e, getting a 10 mg pill instead of 5 mg. Splitting the pill gives double amount you would think, and the cost of the prescription is close to what 30 days of 5 mg would be but here is the danger. Some meds are coated so they release slower or have a time-release function that gets altered by pill splitting. Meaning, the dose might be spiked shortly after swallowing and be a medical danger. Be sure to inquire about pill splitting to be safe.

I work at a free clinic serving the uninsured. We try to prescribe medicines that are on the generic reduced cost lists from various stores and apply to the drug companies for free meds on the patient assistance program when appropriate. We use the Good RX app to find the lowest cost for most meds and print coupons or download the app on patients’ phones

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