How Not to Get Gouged at the Pharmacy

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VIRTUAL PRICE CHECK: GoodRx saves you time and money by showing you how much your prescription meds cost at pharmacies near you.

Are you paying too much for your prescription meds? GoodRx can keep you from being overcharged at your pharmacy counter.

Different pharmacies charge different prices for the same drugs. And the money you’re throwing away can be huge! And don’t think I’m comparing the prices at a mom-and-pop pharmacy in one state with a drug store inside a Big Box retailer in another state. I’m talking about the handful of pharmacies within miles of where you live. You may be out big money every month simply because you instructed your doctor’s staff to send your prescription to one pharmacy rather than another.

“GoodRx takes away the time suck of having to touch base with seven different pharmacies to get their prices for your meds. Because who’s got the time for that? Nobody!”

You probably comparison-shop for food and household supplies like paper towels and bath tissue, but when the receptionist at your doctor’s office asks for your “preferred pharmacy,” you may automatically name the pharmacy closest to your home or office. But here’s the thing: The pharmacy that is most conveniently located to you may not be the one that sells your prescription meds at the cheapest price.

How much money could be slipping through your fingers? Well, the average American’s annual prescription drug tab is $1,370. Now if you have insurance, you may only end up paying about $185 of that. But what if your insurance company moves one of your meds onto a no-pay list? Or what if you lack health insurance and don’t realize you’re overpaying by hundreds of dollars a month? Or what if a drug manufacturer astronomically spikes the price of a prescription medication you’ve been on for years? (I’m talking about you, asthma inhaler manufacturer!)

One way to get a second opinion on whether you’re paying the lowest price for your meds is to do a little due diligence at GoodRx. This website and app collects prices and discounts from more than 60,000 U.S. pharmacies and has millions of users each month. You type in the specific medication you’d like to price and your zip code, and GoodRx’s rundown of the going rate at different pharmacies around town answers questions you didn’t even know you had. Like, is it cheaper to get your prescription filled at Costco or at the independent pharmacy down the street? Can you bring down the price of the meds if you increase the quantity of pills in the vial? What if you pay with cash? And why is GoodRx giving you a coupon that can cut your cost by 80 percent? What’s in it for them?

Today, we let you know how well GoodRx works based on three criteria:

•  Is it effective?

•  Is it easy to use?

•  Is it inexpensive?

And we wrap up the episode by revealing the Painopolis rating we give GoodRx based on its usefulness, user-friendliness and cost.

If you never again want to get stuck paying for prescription drugs that have tripled in cost in a month at your go-to pharmacy, this episode is for you.

For more information:

•  This 2017 Newsweek article explains the wacky way that prescription drugs get priced. The interviewee is a now-independent advisor who spent 15 years helping drug companies price their medications. The bottomline: Nobody pays a drug’s list price—not drug wholesalers, not insurance companies, not physicians—so why should you?

•  This 2016 Consumer Reports article reveals that drugs can cost as much as 10 times more at one pharmacy than another. And among participants in a poll the magazine conducted, when hit with price spikes on their meds, only 17 percent shopped around for a better deal. The piece also offers nine strategies for finding the best prescription drug prices.

•  A chronic asthma sufferer gets curious about why his insurance company is now paying $4,000 a year for his newly prescribed maintenance inhaler in this 2016 Undark.org article that delves into why the cost of asthma inhalers has skyrocketed during the last three decades.

Music:

Our theme music is “Gentle Storm,” composed and performed by Betsy Tinney (betsytinney.com).

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