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Prescription Drug Prices and Costs

Lowering your prescription drug prices

If you noticed that your prescription drug prices have been going up, you're not alone. Consumer Reports just surveyed over 1,000 prescription drug consumers and their survey yielded some interesting results. One third of Americans in their survey said they paid an average of $39 above the usual cost for their prescription, and one in 10 said they paid $100 or more out-of-pocket.

Rising drug prices, especially for generic medications, have become such a problem that two members of Congress, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), asked the Office of the Inspector General earlier this year to investigate – Consumer Reports, 8/13/15

Consumer Reports says that drugs to treat asthma, high blood pressure, and irregular heart rhythm medications top the list of medications that have been steadily rising over the last few years.  If you've paid your pharmacy bill despite experiencing sticker shock, join the club.  81% of those surveyed stayed-and-payed, while just 19% walked away.  Those that walked either declined to fill their prescription, OR they did some additional due diligence on drug pricing.

Most alarming, some said that higher drug prices affected their ability to pay for other medical care. People who faced unexpected high costs were more than twice as likely to avoid seeing their doctor or forego a medical procedure than those who didn’t. – Consumer Reports Survey on Prescription Drug Costs 8/13/15

Consumer Reports also published a savings-checklist for lowering your prescription drug prices.  Here's a few great money-saving ideas:

Consumer reports lowering prescription drug pricesConsumer Reports: Lower Prescription Drug Prices

  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review all of the drugs you take and determine if you can stop taking any of them.
  • Make sure your prescribed drug is covered by your insurance.
  • Consider other medications if the price is too high.
  • Use your insurer’s preferred pharmacy.
  • Consider your insurance company’s mail order service.
  • Try getting your prescription from Costco.
  • Shop around.
  • Ask the pharmacist, “is this the lowest possible price you can offer?”

Video: Lowering Your Drug Bills

Consumer Reports Advice On Prescription Drug Prices

prescription drug pricesConsumer Reports just published some straight-talk on finding the lowest prescription drug prices. In their “secret shopper” campaign they surveyed pharmacies around the country and their results are interesting to say the least!

In our national price scan, secret shoppers made more than 300 phone calls in all, to more than 200 pharmacies in six cities and their surrounding areas across the U.S. They requested prices for five common generic drugs: Actos (pioglitazone), for type 2 diabetes; Cymbalta (duloxetine), an antidepressant also used to treat muscle and bone pain; Lipitor (atorvastatin), for high cholesterol; Plavix (clopidogrel), a blood thinner; and Singulair (montelukast), for asthma. What we found was startling. In short, prices can vary widely from retailer to retailer, even within the same ZIP code. – Consumer Reports, 12/2/2015

Drug Prices Vary

There are so many things that can affect prescription drug prices including local pharmacy discount programs, paying out of pocket vs with insurance, requesting generics, or even simply requesting a discount. Did it ever occur to you to just… Ask for a discount? 🙂  With prescription drug prices on the rise, it pays to ask.

“It sounds crazy that you would need to approach buying prescription medications like you would a used car—by shopping around and haggling. But that’s the reality of today’s pharmaceutical marketplace,” says Stephen Schondelmeyer, Pharm.D., a pharmacoeconomics professor at the University of Minnesota. – Consumer Reports, 12/2/2015

Also Read: Prescription Drug Prices On The Rise

Consumer reports suggests that drug prices could vary as much as 10 times more at one retailer vs. another (even in the same regional market). In one such example, Debbie Diljak (from Raleigh, N.C.), noted the cost for “a month’s worth of the generic Cymbalta she takes ranged from $249 at a Walgreens to $43 at Costco“.  That's almost 6 times more if she were to purchase from Walgreens!

Finding Lower Prescription Drug Prices

Understanding the right strategies and tactics for finding lower prescription drug prices and be a lifeline for many boomers and seniors today. Here are some strategies from Consumer Reports to keep in mind when looking for deals on prescription drugs:

  • Skip chain drugstores
  • Support independent drug stores/pharmacies
  • Don't always use your health insurance
  • Always ask “Is this your lowest price?
  • Seek a 90-day prescription
  • Shop/Look online

What are you doing to stay on top of prescription drug prices? How is this topic affecting your budget at home? We'd love to hear from you in the comments below.

Tips for Reducing High Prescription Drug Costs

If you're over the age of 50 and struggle with paying for your prescription medications, you're hardly alone. In fact, the results of a recent AARP survey reveal that most older adults in the US feel that prescription medication is too expensive. Let's take a closer look at AARP's findings, while highlighting a few tips aimed at helping seniors manage high prescription drug costs.

Related: 2016 Senior Discounts on Prescriptions

Senior Discounts on Prescription Drugs

Boomers and Seniors Weigh In

Conducted in December of 2015, the AARP online study surveyed 1,834 people over the age of 50. Its objective was threefold: to understand consumer prescription drug use along with opinions about cost; to assess difficulties related to the cost of prescription drug use; and to gain insight into consumer perspectives on existing regulations and the role pharmaceutical companies, politicians and healthcare professionals can play in controlling costs.

The AARP's findings comprised the following key points:

  • 75 percent of people over the age of 50 regularly take prescription medication; this percentage increases with age.
  • 80 percent of older adults who regularly take prescription medications take at least two drugs, while more than 50 percent take four or more.
  • Almost 33 percent of older adults who take prescription medications say that their out-of-pocket prescription drug costs are going up — which they largely attribute to changes in their insurance coverage.
  • The majority of older adults think their prescriptions are too expensive, and more than 40 percent are worried about paying for them. This percentage spikes higher among less-educated people with lower income levels.

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  • The majority of older adults believe that drug companies make too much money and have significant power over both healthcare professionals and state legislatures, and that there is not enough legislation when it comes to ensuring that prescription medications are safe. They also believe that politicians should be more involved in keeping costs affordable.
  • More than 80 percent of older adults don't believe drug companies should be able to delay the availability of low-priced generic alternatives, while more than 90 percent of adults believe Medicare should be able to negotiate for lower drug prices.

Another interesting note, adults in the 50-64 demographic face even more challenges than seniors, with a full 25 percent opting not to fill a prescription in the past two years because of the cost compared to just 60 percent of those 65 and older. And compared to just 40 percent of people over the age of 65, 50 percent of adults age 50-64 are concerned about affording their medications in the near future.

Three Tips for Cutting Prescription Drug Costs

While congress is looking at this troubling trend and the call for change is clear, there are some things you can do in the short-term to mitigate costs, including the following:

  1. Avoid expensive, brand-name drugs and request generic forms of medication whenever possible.
  2. Don't assume you are getting the best price at your local pharmacy. Comparison shop and/or look for coupons. Mail-order pharmacies also offer less than retail prices on medication. In fact, home delivery can lead to savings of as much as 33 percent, according to a report from US News and World Report. One warning: Internet pharmacies do come with increased risk of scams, so only shop from websites with the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) seal.
  3. Ask your physician and pharmacist about prescription discount programs, free samples and manufacturer discount cards.  NeedyMeds.org, meanwhile, is an invaluable resource for finding medicine at the lowest cost.

One last word of advice about managing the high cost of medication? Research increasingly points to the value of patient engagement. Educating yourself about the medications you take, asking for second opinions, and keeping the lines of communication open with the members of your healthcare team add up to better patient outcomes.

Check out other articles we have written about senior discounts and additional saving ideas for older adults and their caregivers.

3 Comments

  1. Recently filled a prescription for Lisinopril at both Costco and Walmart by accident. Unfortunately got the Walmart first. Their price was $21.75 for 90 pills, Costco’s price for the same thing and quantity was $6.48. Watch where you buy your prescriptions!
  2. This is a great overall view of the healthcare market. In particular, I’m a big fan of Ed Silverman’s review of the topic in the Wall Street Journal. I actually just compiled my own thoughts on the matter. I think you might find it useful and focused in on the specialty pharmaceutical market. Take a look if you get a chance: https://medium.com/@vanessaralph/acquiring-top-of-the-line-medications-for-less-e85c8f4793bc

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