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How to find best deals on prescription drugs

September 24, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Spending on prescription drugs fell last year for the first time in 58 years. Part of the reason is that cash-strapped Americans are cutting down on health care expenses.

Many people without insurance can't afford medications that could control a chronic condition or save a life. But there are some ways to save big on prescription prices and even get some medications for free.

The costs of getting well is making many consumers sick in their pocketbook -- so much so that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says lower-income adults are twice as likely not to take medications as prescribed.

But even if you don't have insurance or are covered under Medicare or Medicaid, you can still get prescriptions without breaking the bank.

Major pharmacies including Target, Ralphs and Walmart sell hundreds of generic medicines for as little as $4.

The Rite Aid Rx Savings Program offers a 30-day supply of select generics for $9.99, and a 90-day supply for $15.99.

Most pharmaceutical companies have "patient assistance programs," that provide free or discounted medicines to low-to-moderate income or uninsured patients who meet certain guidelines.

The website NeedyMeds.org lists the medications available along with income qualifications for these programs.

Stater Brothers has a free prescription drug program for antibiotics. It's available during the cough-and-cold season from November to February. You can get drugs like amoxicillin and penicillin at no cost to you.

While consumer routinely go online to comparison-shop for cars, electronics and household goods, many don't bother looking for the best deals on prescriptions, and prices can vary widely.

Santa Monica-based GoodRx.com compares prices at more than 70,000 pharmacies nationwide.Just input the name of a prescription, including the dosage and quantity, and GoodRx gives you the cash price charged by local pharmacies. It has links to free manufacturers' coupons for even bigger savings. Good Rx also has an app that compares drug prices on mobile devices.

The owner of Flintridge Pharmacy in La Canada Flintridge admits that while his prices can't compete with discounters like Costco, he says neighborhood pharmacies like his offer personalized service and are often more familiar with their patients' health history.

Another way to save real money is by using free prescription drug discount cards. Most pharmacies accept them. The discounts vary, so it may pay you to take several of these cards to the pharmacy counter to see which gives you the lowest price.


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