Chances are you’ve read multiple articles about saving money on prescription drugs. Use generics, try the mail-order route on recurring prescriptions, consider splitting pills (accurately), and be sure to run the costs through your health insurance and then your FSA. It is all good advice, much of which you’ve heard before.
In the scheme of healthcare costs, prescription drugs are generally considered one of the “good” expenses in healthcare. It is cheaper to treat your high blood pressure than be affected by the consequences of it, for example. Still, within the vast realm of prescription drugs, there are many variations of choices as well as costs. Based on reader questions and forum posts, we’ve compiled a list of three questions that have been asked often as of late. Below are the questions, along with some thoughts around each issue.
1) How much do I save by using generics instead of brand name drugs? It varies greatly, and it shouldn’t be a financial decision alone. Some patients find that they respond differently to a generic than a brand name drug, although it could be the placebo effect at work. In general you’ll likely save at least 50% on generic drugs, and it isn’t rare to see savings of up to 80%, so it is definitely worth considering anytime it is an option. In addition, a consumer-friendly trend has emerged in the past couple years – the deep discounting of certain generics by major pharmacy chains to as little as $4 per month – which may make the savings even greater.
2) If I have a prescription for a brand name drug, can my pharmacist prescribe me the generic equivalent instead? No. Only if your doctor, on the prescription, wrote something to the effect of “Generic OK” can a generic be substituted for the brand name. A pharmacist has to be very literal when they fill the prescription. That is why it is so important that you have the discussion about generic alternatives when you are talking directly with your doctor.
3) Can my doctor make me come in for an office visit just to get a new prescription of a recurring medicine I take? Yes. Doctor’s have a responsibility to make sure your prescription is still the right one for your condition, given changes in your health, other drug interactions, or other factors. If you have a prescription that enables you to get three refills, you should be able to get your three refills without another visit. However, when that prescription is done and you need another month’s supply, the doctor has every right (and a responsibility, actually) to see you to make sure the prescription is still calibrated to your situation.
This guest column is from Paul at HealthHarbor. HealthHarbor is a site devoted to helping people be smarter consumers of healthcare. It provides ideas and guidance on saving money on healthcare, interactive tools for controlling healthcare costs, and hosts an online community devoted to healthcare spending topics.