As the sands of time flow through that glass thing, we get creakier, stiffer and, well, older. Diet and exercise can do their thing, but sometimes we need to turn to chemistry for help. A routine doctor’s visit led to the discovery of my rising blood lipids and the need for some statin pills. The medication lowered my numbers , but the process opened my eyes to another set of numbers. The whimsical world of drug pricing. You get to benefit from my journey and learn some ways to save on prescription drugs.
My doctor prescribed Rosuvastatin (which took a while to learn to pronounce, but it could be a killer Scrabble word if someone has already laid down “statin”). Anyway, I went to the local CVS here in Cleveland and gave it to the pharmacist. She asked whether I had drug insurance (I didn’t) and she quoted a price of $106 for a one month supply. That seemed a little high, given that I will, apparently, need these things for the rest of my life.
I mentioned that it seemed pricey and she suggested that I get a CVS pharmacy card that would lower the drug cost to something like $63/month. Quite a price drop and a real deal given that the card was only $20/year. So I got the card and the pills, quite pleased with myself and ready to blog about my success. Asking a quick question brought me savings of more than $40/month for years to come. A great story of how to save on prescription drugs.
My Brother-in-law spoiled the whole thing…kind of
So I relayed the drug pricing story to my brother in law to help him save on his prescriptions. He listened patiently and mentioned that I should check out GoodRx – it might be even cheaper there. Great to know that there are other options. When I got home, I went to the GoodRx site and searched for my prescription. They work by providing coupons that can be redeemed for drug discounts at major pharmacies and they also have an option to have them delivered. Most of the discounted prices were around $12, or about 20% of my discounted CVS price. They had a delivered option of about $9. So I overpaid by over $50 on my first month’s supply, but uncovered a way to reap those savings for years to come. Good Rx also offers a paid subscription with even cheaper rates that might be helpful if you had several prescriptions.
So then I got curious and searched for other online drug providers and came across Blink Health. They had the Rosuvastatin pills and they can deliver them to my door with a 90 day supply for only $6 a month. About half the GoodRx coupon price, or an unbelievable 94% discount from the CVS retail cash price. No driving, no gas, no parking. Perfect.
How to save on the most popular prescription drugs
I began to ponder whether the difference was just for this one drug type, or whether a similar bounty exists on any kind of prescription drugs. So a little research got me to the most popular prescribed drugs in the USA according to healthgrades.com. I picked a pill quantity (90) and a common strength, did some searching on Blinkhealth.com site, then called CVS, Walgreen and Walmart to get their cash retail price. Here is the results of the research:
A few notes on the table:
- First off, I’m not a doctor. I have no idea what these drugs do or whether they are right for you. I’m not sure whether you will get any of those scary side effects that they list on the TV drug ads while the septuagenarian couple are surfing in Hawaii. Check with your doctor.
- These are the prices that I found on the day that I researched them. For the stores, I called and asked for the cash price. For the online site, I used their lowest delivered price. The retailers may have discount cards that can reduce their prices and the online store may have pick-up at pharmacy options that are cheaper.
- The key message is that if you are spending any kind of money on prescription drugs, it is worthwhile to do some shopping around. Don’t just pick up your prescription at the pharmacy on the ground floor of your doctor’s office.
- About 10% of Americans have no health insurance whatsoever, and those who have insurance may have only partial coverage for drugs. In many cases some of these discounted options may be cheaper than the copay amounts. Compare the best prices with and without your insurance.
- The table above shows a price comparison for 5 popular drugs. What really matters is finding the best price for your drug. For my particular prescription, Blink Health was the winner, auto renews and delivers right to my door. Awesome.
Can you save on prescription drugs in Canada?
Yes you can, but my research says that the savings opportunity isn’t as big. I did a similar comparison shop using the same 5 popular drugs at 3 Canadian retailers and one online Canadian drug pharmacy. Here are the results:
As you can see, pricing is similar across the outlets, but there still are differences. If you had several long term prescriptions in the family it would be worth to do some comparison shopping. Northwest Pharmacy is an interesting option to get the medications delivered right to your home. Not that some of their medications come as 84 pills, so the price compares are not exact.
The key to save on prescription drugs…
Shop around! The differences can be significant. It is important on a 2 week course of antibiotics, but really critical on any lifelong drugs you may need. If I live another 30 years, my savings of $100 a month, invested at 7% will generate an remarkable $123,000 of wealth. Not a bad return on having a beer with my brother-in-law. Thanks Tom!
I have been using Blink Health for a while now and I’m really pleased with them. I will be using them as our family pharmacy for any prescriptions going forward. Check them out here and try their pricing on your prescriptions. Let me know in the comments how much you were able to save.
For more ideas on savings, read my other blog posts, or check out Cashflow Cookbook for another $13,000 of monthly savings ideas, all neatly laid out. Yes, really on the $13,000. Minimal effort and sacrifice, big savings!
Photo by Myriam Zilles on Unsplash
I’ve found Costco pharmacies to be the least expensive of the lot- and no you do not have to be a Costco member to use the pharmacy , at least in Ontario – they are run independently and just happen to be physically located in the Costco building. All this become moot at age 65 in Ontario when most Rx drugs above a cumulative $100/year copay (ie. you pay $100/yr) and rest is covered)/paid for by the Ontario Drug Plan – obviously in Ontario.
Thanks Gee, in Canada I agree, Costco is a great place to get prescription drugs. They are also great for hearing aids (check my posts on that) and eyeglasses as well (post coming up on that!). Take care and stay safe, Gordon.
ps. a little off topic- to above I was poking about on the website under “Ingredients” (no comment section) and you mention Consumer Reports as a good resource (I agree) – if you have a Toronto Public Library card (and I’ll guess a few other libraries also) you can access CR online for free – best price ever. For that matter available ebooks and online materials are too numerous to list – base comment “check out your library!”
Thanks Gee – right on with your comments. Consumers Reports is one of the best bargains at $25/year, and being free at many libraries, its an incredible deal! Many of us picture libraries from years ago when we were kids, but their resources are incredible. Sound like you are in Toronto, there are a couple of libraries that even rent out musical instruments! Keep your comments coming, much appreciated. Gordon
Great advice Gord! I recently left my employer so had been looking for ways to cut down my annual prescription costs. Luckily I take all generic drugs, so the costs are lower, but after shopping around like you recommended, I changed to the Costco online pharmacy. I managed to cut my annual prescription cost by ~40%. The dispensing fees are about half of most other pharmacies ($4.50/Px compared to $8-11/Px), but the best part is the free delivery!
Fantastic Peter! Prescription drugs is an area that many people miss. Often there is a pharmacy right near a doctors office so they stop there to have it filled. Big savings available in both US and Canada on this one.