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Consumer Reports: Save money on medication, safely

October 17, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Many consumers spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars a year on prescription medicines. Because these drugs can be so expensive, people are not always filling their prescriptions or are taking expired drugs, or simply skipping their doses. Consumer Reports shows you how to save money on medications safely.

Nearly half of all adult Americans take prescription medication regularly.

But for common ailments like allergies, acid reflux or aches and pains, the best remedy might already be in your medicine cabinet.

"Our analysis shows that many over-the-counter medications work just as well or better than prescription drugs for a whole host of ailments," said Dr. John Santa, director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center.

For heartburn, Nexium and Prevacid are popular prescriptions. But nonprescription Tums or generic antacids cost a lot less and can relieve occasional heartburn. Consumer Reports says for more serious heartburn, there are over-the-counter options too.

"Even if you've been diagnosed with acid reflux or GERD, research shows that over-the-counter Prilosec or Prevacid works just as effectively as pricier prescription drugs," said Santa.

Even better: generic omeprazole, which can save you as much as $192 a month.

And allergy sufferers might want to consider over-the-counter antihistamine pills like Claritin, Alavert and Zyrtec or their generics. Consumer Reports says they're just as effective as the prescription drugs Astepro, Clarinex and Xyzal. You could save up to $148 a month.

And for joint pain, prescription Celebrex provides relief. But over-the-counter drugs like Advil, Tylenol, Aleve and their generics may work just as well. And Consumer Reports says these generics could save you as much as $265 a month.

Whether you're taking an over-the-counter drug or a prescription, talk to your doctor if symptoms continue more than 10 days.

Consumer Reports also found the best prices on 43 popular over-the-counter remedies. The result: Wal-Mart had the lowest prices on most drugs, with Target a close second.


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