New bills could drastically lower out-of-pocket cost of prescription drugs

New bills could drastically lower out-of-pocket cost of prescription drugs
Image Credit: ohn Moore/Getty Images

Are you facing big expenses for the medications you need to stay healthy?

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States fight a battle to lower drug costs

If you’re struggling with costs that are out of control, you’ll be pleased to know that some 30 states are taking up bills that could cap the cost of pharmaceuticals.

The National Academy for State Health Policy reports the following moves are being considered:

  1. Maryland’s governor is now considering allowing the state’s attorney general to sue drugmakers for excessive price increases.
  2. Nevada is considering requiring manufacturers of select diabetes treatments to disclose the annual cost of research and development (R&D) for the drugs.
  3. Oregon wants to cap out-of-pocket costs for medicine at a maximum of $200 a month for those with insurance. Drugmakers will be required to give you a rebate “if a drug’s price exceeds the median of the five highest prices charged in countries that are members of the Organization of for Economic Cooperation and Development,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

In addition, Vermont stands alone as the only state with a law on the books that requires drugmakers to justify their price increases by disclosing their R&D costs.

And that’s just a sampling of what’s happening at the state level!

Listen: Clark discusses drug costs on the Clark Howard Show Podcast

Comic relief: You’ve got to hear this clip

Ever seen an ad on TV for a new drug and thought, “Wow, those are the craziest side effects I’ve ever heard of…”?

Then you’ll probably enjoy this…

Our own Deborah Reece of Team Clark voiced and produced a mock commercial for a fictitious drug. The spot takes aim at the seemingly endless litany of bizarre side effects some medications can have!

Listen: A mock ad for “Fatalitol”

Here are several ways to save money on prescriptions

Meanwhile, if you’re paying too much for your medication, it’s time to get creative and find ways to lower the cost of what you pay for prescriptions right now…


Print out a $4 list and take it with you

Generic drugs now account for well over 80% of all prescriptions. Just 10 years ago, less than half of drugs sold were generics.

Much of the growth is because employers make generics extra-affordable through mail-order programs (pharmacy benefits managers). Then you also have the grocery stores and big box retailers who do $4 generics.

Most offer a 30-day supply of select generic drugs for $4 or a 90-day supply for $10. Some regional grocers even do free antibiotics!

The next time you go to the doctor, print out one of these lists and see if there is a drug that would work for your condition. It can’t hurt to ask.

One caveat: Drugs have different grades to gauge what’s called their “bioavailability” — a fancy term for how fast they get into your blood — according to The Wall Street Journal. Pharmacists should routinely know about these ratings.

Generic drugs with an “A” rating means they are the exact equivalent of brand-name drugs. Yet a generic with a “B” rating indicates the drug is absorbed either faster or slower into the bloodstream versus the original brand-name drug.

So the Wall Street Journal recommends that upon first filling a generic prescription, you ask the pharmacist about the rating. An A-rated generic equivalent is fine. But if it’s a B-rated equivalent, have the pharmacist check with your doctor to make sure the substitution is acceptable. Often it will be. But better safe than sorry!

Look at warehouse clubs even as a non-member

The beauty of Costco is you don’t need to be a member to use their pharmacy. Simply show up and explain you want a prescription filled. Many Costcos have a separate entrance for their pharmacies to accommodate walk-in non-members.

A recent report from The Florida Sun Sentinel finds the price of a prescription can vary by as much as $170 for a 30-day supply, but the clear winner was Costco.

A reporter named Doreen Christensen called around to price a Lexapro prescription at a variety of retailers. Here’s what she found:

  • Costco – $6.99
  • CVS – $114.99
  • Publix – $118
  • Sam’s Club – $83
  • Target – $147.99
  • Walgreens – $116.99
  • Walmart – $115.88
  • Winn-Dixie – $179.99

Ask for a “biosimilar”

There was a recent Wall Street Journal article about a move in the U.S. to lower drug prices through something called “biosimilars.”

Simply put, a biosimilar is a drug that’s chemically exact in structure to the dominant player in the market, only at a cheaper price!

If you are a doctor, a lot of the meds you’re writing now are things that patients won’t be able to afford. And they may die for lack of medication. So why not write a script for a biosimilar that costs one-twentieth to develop and could be a completely life-saving event?

As a patient, the next time you’re with a doctor, if there is a medicine you are prescribed that you can not afford, ask for a biosimilar!

Use an app to comparison shop

Free apps like GoodRx and LowestMed are so popular because you can easily search nearby pharmacies for discounts and coupons that you didn’t know existed.

And in some cases, the apps find prices that are even lower than your insurance co-pay — or sometimes free!

Consider pill splitting

Using a pill splitter on your medication can cut your cost in half. Sometimes the savings can be even greater, as our own Mike Timmermann explained in a recent article.

One caveat: Always check with your doctor before splitting a pill. As a general rule, capsules, coated pills and time-released drugs should be taken whole.

But according to Consumer Reports, these pills can often be split:

  1. Amlodipine (Norvasc)
  2. Atenolol (Tenormin)
  3. Atorvastatin (Lipitor)
  4. Citalopram (Celexa)
  5. Clonazepam (Klonopin)
  6. Doxazosin (Cardura)
  7. Finasteride (Proscar)
  8. Levothyroxine (Synthroid)
  9. Lisinopril (Zestril)
  10. Lovastatin (Mevacor)
  11. Metformin (Glucophage)
  12. Metoprolol (Toprol)
  13. Nefazodone (Serzone)
  14. Olanzapine (Zyprexa)
  15. Paroxetine (Paxil)
  16. Pravastatin (Pravachol)
  17. Quinapril (Accupril)
  18. Rosuvastatin (Crestor)
  19. Sertraline (Zoloft)
  20. Sildenafil (Viagra)
  21. Simvastatin (Zocor)

Read more: Free app helps shop the lowest prescription prices


Here’s how easy it is to get your free EpiPen replacement

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