Prescription drug use in the United States has been growing steadily for the past couple of decades.
“If you look at the late ’80s [and] early ’90s, the number of pharmaceuticals that we had available was much smaller [because] we didn’t really have lifestyle drugs at that point,” said Bill Morrissey, the head pharmacist at Kilgore’s Pharmacy. “Now you sprinkle in lifestyle drugs, whether that has to do with cosmetic things [like] hair growth or stop smoking IDs….those weren’t available back then.”
Prices have also skyrocketed, mostly due to government-protected “monopoly” rights for drug manufacturers. This can prevent generics from getting on the market as quickly. Pharmacists and health insurance experts recommend the generic as often as a patient can get it.
“It may have a different coding, it may have a different coloring and it may have a different filler,” said insurance broker Shannon Brenneke. “Unless you’re allergic to one of those three things or something in the filler or coloring affects you, typically your generic is going to be less expensive and it’s going to work the same.”
A new law allows pharmacists to switch out the name brand for generic if it’s available and the patient’s doctor hasn’t specifically asked for the name brand.
But insurance companies may also just recommend the generic anyway.
“If there is a generic available and your doctor happens to write for the brand name on purpose or not, the insurance company would say ‘We’re sorry, we probably don’t pay for that unless there’s a good reason you need the more expensive product,'” Morrissey said.
There are also some technological tricks to finding the lowest price: A website called Good Rx.
“You can actually print or email yourself or text yourself a card that looks just like an insurance card,” said Brenneke. “You can text it to yourself and use it at that pharmacy, whatever one that’s listed, and it’ll give you the best price that they found.”
Pharmacists also recommend asking about manufacturer coupons, or buying in a larger quantity at a time to save money.
They can also find a medication in the same class if the prescription is only available in the brand name and doesn’t have a generic substitute.
“A lot of times the pharmacy can recommend a drug that’s in the same class that’s been out longer that actually has a generic,” said Morrissey.
Here is a link to the Good Rx website.