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


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 This Strategy to Save the Most Money

You know the drill: You’re at the doctor’s office and everything is electronic now. The receptionist asks you where you want your prescription electronically 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!

What you should do instead is 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?'”

Now, it’s possible that the medications on the $4 list won’t work for your condition. If that’s the case, that’s the time to turn to an app like GoodRx. Do your comparison shopping right in the doctor’s office before you have the prescription sent off to a pharmacy.

Choose Your Pharmacy Carefully

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

Why you ask?


Because as Clark has found, it may be difficult to get it released to another pharmacy if you later decide 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.”

We want to remind you this issue is not specific to CVS. You’d likely encounter a similar situation at any pharmacy. Complicating the matter in this instance is that the prescription happens to be for a controlled substance, so there’s extra scrutiny around it.

Special Considerations for 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. He suggests you default to your nearest Costco pharmacy. They’re often the cheapest on medication because of their 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 Thought

The important thing to remember is 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 that you could possibly have. Failing that, consider making Costco your pharmacy of choice.

So now the next time this situation comes up, you’ll know how to handle it!

Meanwhile, be sure to check out our article on 10 Ways to Save on Prescription Drugs.

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