Healthcare is expensive, especially when it comes to recurring costs like prescription drugs. Big names like Lipitor, Plavix, and Zyprexa can cost hundreds of dollars a month – each.
But there’s good news for people on some of these pricy prescriptions: Over the next year, Medco Health [PDF] says nearly two dozen brand names will get generic versions.
Generics are significantly cheaper even though they contain the same active ingredients and go through an approval process at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration just like their expensive counterparts. There are two main reasons for the price difference: competition and advertising budgets.
When a new drug hits the market, the price is higher because the FDA grants exclusivity for a few years and the company spends a ton promoting it. Afterward, other companies can legally copy the product and sell it much cheaper. Find out what drugs are going generic from Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson in the video below, and then read on for some other cost-cutting tips.
Did you catch that – a drug that costs $589 with a generic that’s $69? That’s 88 percent off. But if you’re now taking a drug for which there’s no generic, there are still ways to save.
- Talk to your doctor. After you ask if Drug X is right for you (like the commercials tell you to) ask for free samples and whether there’s a cheaper prescription that may do the same thing. Even if there isn’t a generic copy, there are sometimes other drugs that work differently to treat the same condition. Bringing your formulary (a list of medications covered by your health insurance) is a good idea.
- Review your prescriptions. Regularly ask your doctor or pharmacist to go over your medications with you. If there are ones that aren’t working or are no longer needed, that’s instant savings.
- Comparison shop. Rates aren’t the same everywhere, so check with multiple pharmacies. Don’t forget the ones at big retailers like Target and Wal-Mart, both of which offer a month’s supply of many generics for as low as $4. Good places to compare online include RxUSA and DestinationRx. Be sure to check the prices on all your meds and go for the best net bargain; don’t try to get the cheapest rates piecemeal, which could be a health risk. Your pharmacist needs to know what you take to make sure none of the medicines interfere with one another.
- Buy more. This may not be possible, especially if you’re on a fixed income. But as with many things, buying bulk can save money. Just make sure you only do it with medicines you’ve tried and know you will continue needing – not new prescriptions.
- Look for patient assistant programs. There are programs out there to help people in need find free prescriptions or discounts. Most are for people without insurance or those with low income. Start with the Partnership for Prescription Assistance, and take a look at these:
Generic arrival dates
You can get the complete list from MedCo Health, but here are 10 of the big ones coming in the next year:
- Lipitor, used for high cholesterol – November 2011.
- Solodyn, used for acne – November 2011.
- Zyprexa, used for schizophrenia and depression – October 2011.
- Lexapro, used for anxiety and depression – March 2012.
- Geodon, used for bipolar disorder – March 2012.
- Provigil, used for sleeping problems – April 2012.
- Plavix, used for blood clots – May 2012.
- Singulair, used for asthma – August 2012.
- Actos, used for type II diabetes – August 2012.
- Diovan, used for high blood pressure – September 2012.
If you’re more worried about the people than the prescriptions, check out 3 Tips for Choosing the Right Doctor and 5 Tips to Pick the Right Hospital.
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