Published On: Wed, Apr 18th, 2018

Save Money on Your Meds and Reduce Out-Of-Pocket Costs

Consumer Reports survey finds that high cost of drugs forces many Americans to cut back on expenses, or ration their healthcare in potentially dangerous ways.

Consumer Reports survey finds that high cost of drugs forces many Americans to cut back on expenses, or ration their healthcare in potentially dangerous ways.YONKERS, NY — As the burden of high drug costs grows, Consumer Reports (CR), the non-profit, member organization, is asking consumers to get a “medication cost-savings checkup” with a local pharmacist to help reduce their out-of-pocket costs—and potentially prevent risky drug errors and interactions. CR has proclaimed April 7th through 14th as “National Save Money on Your Meds Week.”

During Consumer Reports’ National Save Money on Your Meds Week, consumers are urged to bring their prescription medications to their local pharmacy to make sure they are saving as much money as possible, through using generic drugs, getting 90-day prescriptions, utilizing in-store discounts, and even simply asking the pharmacist for the lowest possible price.

CR’s team of “secret shoppers” have found that people can often get a lower price simply by asking their pharmacist. Pharmacists aren’t always able to offer this information, unless a consumer asks directly, due to prohibitive contracts with pharmacy benefit managers. While you’re there, ask the pharmacist to check your meds for any potentially dangerous interactions, and possibly eliminate unnecessary drugs. Retailers including Costco, Publix, and independent pharmacies through the National Community Pharmacist Association, and others have pledged support for this important week.

“There are ways for consumers to hold the line, or even reduce, what they spend on drugs,” said Lisa Gill, deputy editor, Consumer Reports. “CR offers a variety of tips that consumers can use to reduce their out-of-pocket expenses.”

Americans already spend more on drugs—some $450 billion in 2016 alone—than people in any other country in the world. And costs continue to rise. In 2016, total drug costs went up nearly three times the rate of price increases for other goods and services, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Labor. Furthermore, the amount consumers have to pay out of pocket for medications is increasing, from about $25 billion in 2000 to an estimated $67 billion in 2025.

A new and nationally representative survey by Consumer Reports (of almost 1,200 adults who currently take a prescription drug) found that high costs are forcing people to cut back on groceries, delay retirement, and even take a second job. Some say they’re going so far as to make potentially dangerous choices such as rationing or even stopping their meds. One out of every five people, who face a spike in the price of their drug, say they didn’t fill their prescription at all — with the decision happening at least 6 million times last year, according to CR’s survey.

Here are some common-sense strategies everyone should consider when trying to reduce out-of-pocket drug costs:

  • Ask your doctor whether you need a drug in the first place. You might not. In a recent CR survey, 70 percent of those who asked their doctor if they could cut down on their drugs were able to eliminate at least one.
  • If a drug is necessary, ask how much it will cost. Consumers tell CR that most doctors don’t regularly talk about drug costs. So you might need to take the lead.
  • Go generic. Doing so could save you up to 85 percent off the branded drug’s price.
  • Look into 90-day prescriptions. That’s especially important if you regularly take meds for chronic conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes. The longer script reduces the number of co-pays that you have to make. Even if you don’t have insurance, you may still save by buying in bulk.
  • Ask your pharmacist for the lowest possible price. Pharmacists aren’t always able to offer this information, unless a consumer asks directly.
  • Shop around. CR secret shoppers found huge variation in retail prices even among pharmacies within the same zip code. The organization found Costco was consistently the lowest-priced national retailer while Healthwarehouse.com was the lowest online. One caveat: Shopping around like this won’t count toward your insurance deductible.

For more information on “How to Pay Less for Your Meds,” visit CR.org/drugcosts or check out the May issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

Source: Consumer Reports

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