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If you want to save money on prescriptions, shop around


I am a saver – always have been, always will be. When I shop, I compare prices.

Anyone who shops has noticed how much things have gone up lately. I buy cream cheese all the time. Last time I looked, Philadelphia, the brand my mom always bought, cost almost a dollar more in the plastic tub than in the foil wrapper. And when I looked at the local store brand, it was a dollar less than the name brand.

Eventually I tried the local Wisconsin brand. It tasted exactly the same – and believe me, I could tell if there was a difference because I love cream cheese. The local brand is $2 less than the in-tub brand. That’s a long way of saying I’m always on the hunt for a bargain.

Now let’s get to the reason I’m telling you this: drugs. Chances are that almost all of you on one drug or another are paying too much for one of your prescription drugs.

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Believe me, in these times of hyper-inflation, it behooves you to do some research because it could save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars a year. If you’re a person who just walks into a store and buys anything at any price, you don’t need to read the rest of this column – it’s not for you . But if you’re comparing costs and looking for the best deals like me, read on.

I recently received a prescription for a drug that I knew was expensive while it was still on patent. But I also knew that the patent period had recently expired and it had become available as a generic drug.

My healthcare professional asked me where I wanted the prescription sent, suggesting Walgreens because it’s close to home and she knew there was a coupon I could use for the medicine. Fair enough. It sounded like a good deal to me, so the prescription is gone.

Because I’m a thrifty, I go to to check the price of every medicine I buy. Why? Because sometimes I learn that it’s cheaper for me to pay cash than to use my insurance and pay the co-payment.

Eh? Truly? How could this be the case? Because someone baits and changes – pharmacy, drug company or both – to make you think your co-pay will be cheaper than buying it outright.

Years ago I had a guy on the antidepressant Prozac. I told him I would send a prescription for a 90 day supply to the pharmacy for him, knowing that Prozac had been available as a generic drug for years.

He asked me if I could just give him a prescription for 28 days at a time because it was too expensive for the 90 day supply. Now I knew this was available as a 90 day supply at Walmart for $10.

Well, long story short, it was paying – get this – $15 for a month’s supply. Do the math. That meant it cost him $45 for a 90-day supply, or $180 per year, with his copayment when it would only cost him $40 per year to pay cash.

Paying cash on the barrel would have saved him $140 a year. That’s a lot of money.

You would think the pharmacist would have told him this, but our state law at the time prevented the pharmacist from offering advice on the matter unless the client specifically requested this information. I don’t like the smell of it, do you?

So let’s move on to my recent prescribing experience. When I went to Walgreens they said the prescription would be $115 please. I said I was using a coupon that they told my health care provider they would apply to the Rx. They did, but the cost was still $115 with the coupon.

Because I had researched the drug on, I knew the coupon would drop the price to $18. But Walgreens does not use And the pharmacy didn’t suggest me to try somewhere else to save money. So I told them to put it back on the shelf, called my provider, and sent the prescription to Hy-Vee, who use I saved just under $100.

Now why am I ranting about this? Because it deserves a rant. What can you do about it? Plenty! Here are my suggestions:

    Check each medication on If it’s cheaper, find a pharmacy near you that uses and tell your healthcare professional to send those prescriptions there. You decide if it’s worth going to two pharmacies to save money. Evaluate it, compare costs, and make a decision just like you would other purchases. A few dollars here, a few dollars there, it all adds up.

    Also check out entrepreneur Mark Cuban’s new drug company, Cost Plus Drug Company – It’s a mail order pharmacy with dynamite deals, and orders are shipped right to your doorstep. Any doc office can send it there. Very easy.

My turn : If you want to save money on drugs, shop around. And remember, if you don’t touch the pill bottle at the pharmacy, they put it back on the shelf – you don’t have to buy it. Don’t think to yourself, “Well, it’s not worth it. I’ll just pay that extra $100 because it’s going to be a big hassle getting the medicine back.

Take charge. Ask about the costs of your pills. To save money. Stay well.

This column provides general health information. Always consult your personal health care provider about concerns. No continuing relationship of any kind is implied or offered by Dr. Paster to persons submitting questions. All opinions expressed by Dr. Paster in his columns are personal and are not meant to represent or reflect the opinions of SSM Health.

Because I’m a thrifty, I go to to check the price of every medicine I buy.





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