How To Comparison Shop Drug Prices Before Your Doctor Sends in a Prescription

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We all want lower prices on our prescription medications. Fortunately, there are apps to help comparison shop so we can achieve that goal.

But what do you do when it’s time for the doctor to send your brand-new prescription to a pharmacy — but you haven’t had time to do your comparison shopping yet?

Is there still a way to save money when you’re under the gun like this? Money expert Clark Howard says yes.

Try These Strategies To Save Money on Prescriptions

You know the drill: You’re at the doctor’s office. The receptionist asks you where you want your prescription sent and you freeze up.

You haven’t had a chance to comparison shop with GoodRx, RxSaver or SingleCare yet. So you just blurt out the name of the first pharmacy that comes to mind.

First things first: Stop doing that, Clark says! Instead, here are two options to help you save.

Option 1: Ask for a Hard Copy of the Prescription

A simple way to shop for cheaper prescriptions is to ask for a physical copy of the prescription at the doctor’s office. With the copy in hand, you can use a tool like GoodRx to shop for the best price from your home or car.

Option 2: Bring a $4 Generics Lists

Another option is to take Walmart’s $4 prescriptions list with you to your doctor’s appointment or pull it up on your phone. This list can help you get a 30-day supply (or a 90-day supply for $10) of select generics for a low price.

“You don’t want to react. You want to be part of the process of the prescription,” Clark says. “Doctors have no idea what any prescriptions cost. So you have to say, ‘Hey, these are the ones I can afford. Will any of these work?'”

It’s possible that the medications on the $4 list don’t include what you need. If that’s the case, then you should turn to the first option above. You can use an app to do your comparison shopping right in the doctor’s office before you have the prescription sent off to a pharmacy if you don’t want to ask for a paper copy.

Special Considerations

Pharmacy Changes

When it comes to picking a pharmacy, you generally want to try to get it right the first time and have the prescription sent out only one time.



Because as Clark has found, it may be difficult to get it released to another pharmacy if you decide later that’s what you want to do.

“There’s a medicine [someone in my family takes] that CVS never seems to have. But CVS won’t tell you if they have it or not until the prescription has gone there,” Clark says. “So it goes there electronically and then it’s really hard to get CVS to release it so the doctor’s office can send it to another pharmacy. Many times I physically have to go into the CVS and while I stand there have them send it back. It can’t be done over the phone.”

This issue is not specific to CVS. You’d likely encounter a similar situation at any pharmacy.

Virtual Visits

Telemedicine is great because it lets us get the care we need from the comfort of our own homes. But sometimes, you can’t even move ahead with scheduling your virtual visit until you select a pharmacy.

Clark has a suggestion for this scenario, too. Consider defaulting to your nearest Costco pharmacy: It’s often the cheapest on medications because of its low markups.

Best of all, you don’t have to be a member to use the Costco pharmacy. Some locations even have a separate entrance for non-members that leads directly into the pharmacy. Call your local store to check before heading out.

Final Thoughts

The important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t feel pressured to give a pharmacy name at the doctor’s office without first checking prices in some form or fashion.

If you can remember to take the $4 prescription list with you, then you’ve armed yourself with the best chance of saving money on medications. Failing that, consider making Costco your pharmacy of choice.

Meanwhile, be sure to check out our article on Ways To Save on Prescription Drugs.

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