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Prescription drug prices hit new heights

You may be able to find cheaper alternatives.

By Karen Datko Nov 16, 2009 4:38PM

Drug companies will likely face some kind of cost containment whenever health care reform becomes law, so it’s no surprise that they’re raising prices. By some accounts it’s the largest increase in 17 years.

The New York Times reports:

In the last year, the industry has raised the wholesale prices of brand-name prescription drugs by about 9%, according to industry analysts. … The drug trend is distinctly at odds with the direction of the Consumer Price Index, which has fallen by 1.3% in the last year.

What does this mean to you? The NYT says:

This year’s increases mean the average annual cost for a brand-name prescription drug that is taken daily would be more than $2,000 -- $200 higher than last year ….

The drug companies deny that they’re jacking up prices in anticipation of health care reform. But do you really believe that? The NYT adds:

The industry stands to gain about 30 million customers with drug insurance from the legislation pending in Congress. But the industry also faces the prospect of tougher negotiations from both public and private buyers as the government tries to squeeze savings out of the health system.

Faced right now with higher prices on prescription drugs, how can you keep the cost of your medication under control?

  • Buy generic -- if you can. The NYT says 78% of U.S. spending on drugs is for brand-name stuff. But ask your doctor if a generic exists that produces the needed results.
  • If not, check for other alternatives. The Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs Web site can help with that research. So can Rxaminer and DestinationRx. Then talk to your doctor. And while you’re at it, ask the doc if you really need to take that pill. Liz Pulliam Weston wrote at MSN Money, “There are plenty of over-the-counter medications that often work as well as their prescription counterparts. Some of these OTC remedies, such as Claritin for allergies or Prilosec for heartburn, were once prescription-only.”
  • Compare prices. They vary from pharmacy to pharmacy, sometimes even within the same chain.
  • Get two for the price of one. Saving Advice says, “Most prescription drugs have the same price per tablet no matter what the strength.” Ask your doctor to double the strength of your medication so that you can save money by breaking the pill in half. Note: This does not work with every medication, so consult with your doctor.
  • Look for rebates and coupons, starting with drug company Web sites. Our blogging partner Teresa Mears said in an earlier post, “The makers of many prescription drugs offer substantial rebates. Several Web sites, including Internet Drug Coupons and Optimizer RX, provide links to coupons and rebate forms for both prescription drugs and over-the-counter drugs.”
  • Ask your doctor for free samples. This works best if the prescription is for a limited time.
  • See if you qualify for a discount card. Kristin of Making Cents Out of Life, guest posting at Free From Broke, recommended exploring Together Rx Access, AstraZeneca or Your Rx Card. We have a discount card free through our county, so check with your local government.
  • Perhaps you qualify for free medications. Check out Partnership for Prescription Assistance or Rx Assist.

Have your medications gone up in price? How are you coping?


Related reading:

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