Cheap Drugs – How I Saved $25 in 3 Minutes

Drugs are bad, mmmkay?
Image by cackhanded via Flickr

Today, I stopped by the grocery store to pick up a couple of prescriptions.  I always get the generics, because they are less than half the price of the name-brands, while still being chemically identical. That’s not what I’m talking about, although it did save me about $75 today.

When the pharmacist rang up my medications, the total came up to $35.   That just wasn’t right.

Many chain pharmacies have gone to a cheap pricing model for generic drugs.  That usually means $4-6 per monthly prescription.  Cub Foods doesn’t have that.

So I asked for the price match.

Cub Foods matches prices on generics with whatever large pharmacy is nearby.  In this case, they matched Target’s prices, bringing the price from $35 to $10.   Instant $25 savings. I just had to wait for them to look up my prescriptions in their match-book.

Pharmacies with cheap generics:

K-Mart offers a 3 month supply for $15.

Target and Wal-Mart both have a 30-day supply for $4.

Publix offers a 14-day prescription for some antibiotics for free.  That’s insane! It’s also a heckuva way to get people in the door.  “Why don’t you shop for half an hour while I fill your scrip?”

If your pharmacy is anywhere near any of these stores, call and ask if they’ll match the price for generic drugs.

A few tips:

Before you go get your cheap drugs, call ahead and make sure what you need is on the cheap list.   Don’t assume.

You won’t be able to use your insurance to buy the cheap generics.   The overhead in insurance processing would mean that the pharmacies would be operating at a loss for each prescription.  You can’t make that up in volume.    Between our copays and deductibles, it’s far cheaper to just pay the generic price without involving the insurance company.

Don’t be afraid of generics.  It’s not like Nike.  Generics are chemically identical to the name brands. There are two differences: the price and the letter stamped on the side of the pill.

The stores offering cheap drugs are generally bigger stores hoping to use the drugs as a loss leader.    Places like Walgreens or CVS make up to 70% of their profits from the pharmacy.  They can’t stay open treating that as a loss leader.

How do you save money on prescriptions?

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  • 10 comments

    Comments

    1. I have learned a similar lesson but living out in the sticks, I cannot realistically run 60 miles to fill a prescription so I am stuck using my local drug store. Most drug stores around here have a sign that says they automatically fill everything generically unless otherwise told. I like my doctor and we can work pretty well together as he knows that I have high-deductible health insurance. For a surprising number of drugs out there, their prices drop like a rock once the patent wears off and they are able to be made generically. Most of the times, it is the newer drugs where the company still holds the patent and they keep the cost high since they have a limited time to hold the patent. If you work with the doctor and tell him your concerns about this, they should be able to try some of the older cheaper drugs first instead of the new flashy ones you see on TV. Being patient and working from the older cheaper ones first and then as the last resort going to the new expensive ones has saved me a heck of a lot of money.

      But (as a warning) there are some doctors out there who take great offense to people talking to them about this.

      • “For a surprising number of drugs out there, their prices drop like a rock once the patent wears off and they are able to be made generically.”

        Not just some. All. Drug companies drop hundreds of millions of dollars each year into R&D, with no guarantee that they’ll ever have FDA approval. Without the initial high cost, drug research would evaporate.

        It sucks, but that’s the cost of newer, better drugs.

        If my doctor got offended by my discussing price…well, screw him. Thankfully, we’ve got a great doctor.

    2. Nice score!
      I use medco and get 90 days refills. It’s very convenient for me. The Safeway pharmacy is always so packed. I’ll need to check if I am saving money or not though. At $11 for 90 days, I think that’s pretty good (insurance kicks in some.)

    3. I get our dog’s steroid pills from Kroger for $10 for 3 months (90 pills). 🙂

    4. My BF doesn’t have healthy insurance but is on some health maintenance drugs so this is a topic we deal with at least twice a month.

      In addition to the tips that you mentioned sometimes we ask the doctor if they have samples (they often do) so mitigate how much we have to get from the pharmacy. Also, some drug companies offer prescription coupons or rebates on their site sometimes. Lastly, I sometimes Google “prescription discount card” and will often find one that we can use.

      I’m working on getting him into some programs that the drug companies themselves run to help people pay for their medications. We’ll see how that goes.

      • In my experience, the doctor usually only has samples of the latest and greatest stuff that the pharmaceutical companies are trying to push. Does your BF ever get samples for anything older, or more mainstream?

        • You’re right, it is usually something that drug companies they are trying to push, but, remember, we ask the doctor for samples of prescriptions that he is getting anyway. When prescriptions cost $90 for one with no coverage every little bit helps.

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