The People's Perspective on Medicine

Show 1120: How Can You Save Money on Medicines?

On this broadcast for 5/5/2018, find out how to save money on medicines from the Deputy Editor for Special Projects at Consumer Reports. And share your own strategies with us!
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How Can You Save Money on Medicines?

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Prescription drugs cost more in the US than in any other country. Prices have been rising far more quickly than the cost of living, and the proportion people must pay out of pocket has also been increasing. As a result, many patients are finding it difficult to afford their medicines. Are you among them? Is there a way you could save money on medicines?

Save Money on Medicines:

Consumer Reports (May 2018) has just run a cover story on how to pay less for your medicines. We speak with the author, Lisa Gill, about some smart ways to lower drug costs. You might not know that many pharmacists must abide by a gag clause that prevents them from volunteering information on how you could get a better price. She describes how it works and how you can get around it. She also recommends checking out prescription drug coupons from two sites: and

Call Us:

After you listen to Lisa Gill explain recommendations from the Consumer Reports special issue on how you can save money on medicines, call in to share your story. Were you hit with an unexpectedly large pharmacy bill? Do you need a cancer medicine that your insurance doesn’t cover? Tell us how you have managed to save money on medicines. Share your tactics with others and pick up tips from them. Call 888-472-3366 between 7:15 and 7:55 EDT on Saturday, May 5, 2018. Or reach us by email:

This Week’s Guest:

Lisa Gill is Deputy Editor at Consumer Reports for Special Projects. The cover story, Pay Less for Your Meds, is in the May 2018 issue of Consumer Reports. Lisa’s article on the gag clause is here:

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
Show 1046: How to Save Money on Prescription Drugs
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The cost of prescription drugs has been outpacing inflation for years. Is there any way to save money on pricey prescriptions?

Show 1046: How to Save Money on Prescription Drugs
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I have negotiated the price of certraline an Antidepressant drug. I call several druggists in my small Wisconsin city. The last time I checked the price for 90 days 30mg was $180, $124, $86, $48. I called Costco and got a price of $13.35 for 90 days. I then recontacted the most flexible druggist who was at $86 and asked him to match the Costco price. After much himing and hawing he gave it to me for $15

CAUTION: I immediately checked out to check price saving on the few common drug prescriptions I was refilling.

DO NOT USE Blink Health until you check with your pharmacist first. In my small community I know my pharmacist personally and he was candid with me.

Here is how it works: You pay directly to BH and they send order to your pharmacy for them to fill. Problem is that when my drug store checked the process they found that the price charged by BH was below my drug store’s cost – plus BH charges my drug store an additional $25 processing fee. My drug store is only reimbursed for the actual BH prescription order.

The only one who benefits by this ‘deal’ is BH while my drug store fills my order at a loss as well as paying BH $25 for the service. When I asked why any pharmacy would accept BH orders, he said they certainly would never do it again. In this case since I asked first, my pharmacist said he would have to recommend I purchase my prescriptions elsewhere since he could NOT afford the loss or the fee.

BH advertising lists my drug store as a provider… Misleading since it has not and now will never be a provider. Perhaps volume is a reason large drug store chains might provide this service, but for the small drug store this is a rip-off. Be kind to your pharmacy – don’t allow BH to rip them off.

And now for something a little different: I once bought an antibiotic that cost $900. I bought stock in the company. I made back my $900 several times over!

If you live in Wisconsin, our state has a program called “Senior Care” that helps with prescriptions. The program has three levels of coverage depending on one’s income level, but is a good program and can lower out-of-pocket costs substantially. It is well worth looking into, and it does help low income people get their prescriptions for very low co-pays.

I listened to the recommendations to request, for example, 90-day prescriptions and dividing pills, both of which my elderly doctor volunteered to me. He later left the clinic owing to the continual pressure to reduce his time with patients–much of which resulted from the clinic’s insane insistence that results be keyboarded in real-time. (It was painful to watch him try to comply with two fingers. I have since been to surgeon’s offices where transcribers do that work…) His advice however saved me serious money.

That is, it used to, until the next insurance signup. A 90-day prescription now requires a triple co-pay, and I learned that some drug formulations simply explode under a pill-cutter instead of dividing. My insurance company, you know? that takes thousands of dollars a year from me?, is my own worst enemy.

Back to that surgeon’s office, when I went in for a followup, I asked if he knew how much the prescription he had me fill cost per month? The bright young fellow looked at me and said, “I honestly have no idea.” But when I told him ($210/month; my copay was $30, the first time it had ever been anything but $5), he said, “There is no way I can put that information to use because we don’t have any method to prescribe based on what will be cheapest for you.” He and I agreed that the problem with “health care” is that the cost-pain has been decoupled, suspiciously similar to the income tax, from the service so that neither patients and doctors cannot tell “it’s worth it” means anymore.

My aphorism is: the problem with health care is that most people don’t.

I tuned in to today’s program right before the oncologist’s comments. I can’t believe you let him off the hook so easily! Why? Nobody has the courage today to call out doctors, particularly specialists who are making multi-millions of dollars on the backs of sick people. Doctors’ exorbitant salaries are part of the problem of overpriced drugs. Yet they get a free pass. Nobody calls them out. When you, Terry, asked the oncologist if HIS patients had trouble paying for drugs, he paused, but didn’t answer the question. Rather, you let him blather about some vaguely related issue. Too many people are getting extremely wealthy while too many people are dying in this country for lack of care. And we need the media (you) to call them out!


Dave W.

I have serious concerns with the difficulty at home of identifying and managing generic drugs that are the same in size, shape, markings, and color. Decreasing dexterity, vision, and memory portend dangerous errors. I know much as a nurse to organize and manage drugs, but I think consumers need much help with clearer labeling and markings on generics to use them safely. This problem gets worse as generics are switched for “cost savings”.

Canada and most European countries have a prescription drug commission that limits the price of drugs. We should badger our legislators to enact a similar commission in the U.S.

My dermatologist prescribed a one-tiime course of Fluorouracil. The price was $180 at my pharmacy. When I reacted to the price, they offered it me for $98. Sounds like this is the way to say what is the best price you can get?

My wife’s Benicar is expensive but the manufacturer does provide a “rebate”. This appears to be a way to push more cost onto the insurance company since they don’t get the benefits of this rebate.

My Wife needs an appropriate blood pressure medicine to protect her kidneys. Her nephrologist prescribed Benicar which costs well over $100 per month. There is a generic, but the pill it’s large, crumbles, and is very bitter. She does not tolerate it well.

I’ve decided to take a natural, organic synthroid. Wait till my doctor gets that change.

No more pharmaceuticals. won’t she be happy. I am going to try. I won’t tell my doctor.

I’ll have my levels checked often till I’m sure I am good. No more side effects if it works.

Wish me the best

What natural organic synthroid are you taking?

The two meds I take, one for hypothyroidism and one for high blood pressure have generics available. I have tried generic for both and had bad reactions for both. As a result I am currently at an almost $200 copay for the which will go up another $100 per month because it is a top tier drug and Blue Cross raises it every year.

The med for the thyroid has been $48 copay for a 90 day supply but that will go up now because it, too, is a top tier drug and has to be reapproved every year. Each time I reapply for authorization it goes up dramatically. I have Blue Cross PPO. This is the third year. When I started it was $58/yr; next $86/year; now $136/year. And Soc security thinks we don’t deserve raises.

Low income people can get lower cost prescriptions at

I also request a 90 day supply that is stronger and then cut them in half. Of course this doesn’t work with capsules.

Costco often has cheaper prices on prescriptions without using insurance, but the frustration is that it doesn’t apply to the insurance deductible.

Shop around, and compare prices, then go to Costco, and you’ll find their prices
upto 75% less than other chain store Pharmacies…
Chain store Pharmacies quoted me $90-120 for a 90 day supply of Quinapril.
I purchased the Quinapril at Costco for $25…
A chain store Pharmacy quote us $784 for a 2 week supply of Lovenox,
while Costco’s price was $221..
These were cash prices, without insurance..

GoodRx is a great website to use for comparison shopping. Costco will often allow non-members to shop their pharmacy due to state laws. Walmart and many others have lists of cheap drugs that you can take to your doctor. Walgreens has a club you can join that will give you discounts. People close to Mexico and Canada will travel to obtain cheaper medications. Look at your formulary list if you have drug coverage and show it to your doctor, there are often drugs that can be substituted. Drug companies offer coupons for those with insurance that can lower co-pays, Drug companies often have programs to help poorer people that you can submit.

Thank you, Greg, for the excellent information and suggestions.

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