Tricks for helping patients save money on prescriptions

As a primary care doctor, I have figured out many tricks for helping patients save money on prescriptions. Some of them I am sure you have never heard of, and others , well — you might have, but they bear repeating.

All of the prices quoted here are from Costco, unless otherwise specified.

1. Price compare between pharmacies. Can’t stress enough the potential differences in medicine prices between pharmacies. Generic medicine prices vary more than branded/trademarked medicine prices.

Z-pack 5 day antibiotic (generic) Costco- $11 OR Kmart- $55

Tricyclen birth control (generic) Target- $9 OR Osco- $33

You can call the pharmacies yourself and find out who is offering the lowest price. The pharmacy tech or the pharmacist will give you the price over the phone if you ask them. You need to be able to tell the pharmacist the strength and quantity of the pills or syrup etc. It is listed on the prescription from your doc. Of course, you can also use, which is a free community service for Chicagoans — and anyone else who cares ot use it. This website price compares over 550 medicines for you and includes Walgreens, Walgreens with Saver Card, Target, Osco, Walmart, CVS, CVS with Saver Card, Kmart and Costco.

2. Take your “combo pill” as two separate pills. If you are taking a medication that is a combination of medicines, consider taking it as two separate pills. If you are not sure if you are taking a “combo pill” try Googling the name to find out. Usually you can save money by taking the meds separately (even if there is a generic version of your combo med!)

Lotrel (generic) 10/20, #30 tabs – $81 per month OR

amlodipine 10 mg, #30 tabs + benazepril 20 mg, #30 tabs= $8 + $6 = $14 per month.

3. Ask your doctor about changing the dosing schedule of your medication. If you are taking a medication that ends with “XL”, “XR”, “CD”, or “SR”- then you are probably taking a long acting version of your medicine. Therefore, there is probably a short- acting generic version of your medication also available. The trade off would be that you might have to take a pill two or three times a day instead of once or twice a day. If your doctor thinks this is appropriate for you, it could save you big bucks.

Rythmol SR 225 mg, #60 tabs (taken twice a day)- $367/month OR

propafenone (generic Rythmol) 225 mg #100 tabs (taken three times a day)- $34/month

Leslie Ramirez is an internal medicine physician and founder of Leslie’s List, which provides information that enables all patients, but especially the uninsured and underinsured, to find more affordable medications and health care services.

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