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Discount-drug programs can save you money

Nearly all chain stores and pharmacies offer them

Published: April 2012

For almost a decade chain pharmacies nationwide have been selling select generic drugs for as little as $1 per week. And you’ve probably seen ads for similar drug programs at mass retailers and even some supermarkets. Here’s what you need to know to maximize your medication savings.

What’s included: Generic-drug programs cover hundreds of medications to treat many common conditions, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, depression, osteoarthritis, and allergies.

What’s (usually) not included: Newer, brand-name drugs.

How the plans work: Some pharmacies require you to sign up for membership or pay an annual fee. Others require only a doctor’s prescription. Some memberships need to be renewed annually, while others are open-ended. Find out all the details before you need to fill a prescription in case the enrollment process takes longer than you anticipated.

Why pharmacies can sell drugs so cheaply: Some pharmacies say it’s because they buy drugs in bulk. Others say that program membership fees help to offset the costs. Some pharmacies may lose money on these programs, but others, such as the “big box” stores, may make up the loss through impulse sales or sales of other high-ticket items.

What insurance covers: Generic medication included in these programs can be even cheaper than your insurance co-payment. If you have a $10 co-pay but the drug you need is offered by a pharmacy for $4, you should be eligible for the cheaper price. Simply pay for the drug out-of-pocket and the pharmacy won’t submit the claim to your insurance company. Ask the pharmacist about any exclusions (also see the chart) or how the program works with Medicaid, Medicare, or another federal program you use.

Where to get good prices beyond the chains: If your preferred pharmacy is a mom-and-pop shop, it pays to ask if it will match the discount prices of the chain drugstores. In many cases the independents will try, and they may even offer a discount generic drug program of their own.

Drugstore deals

Discount: Less than $10 for a 90-day supply.

What’s covered: 200 to 300 generic drugs.

Membership: No fee and Costco membership isn’t required. Uninsured Costco members ($55 minimum fee) can join an additional savings program for free.

Who is covered: Costco members and nonmembers.

Bonus: Uninsured Costco members who join the free Costco Member Prescription Program receive savings that can range between 5 to 40 percent.

Discount: $11.99 for a 90-day supply.

What’s covered: More than 400 generic drugs.

Membership: $15 annual enrollment fee per person.

Who is covered: People not using insurance.

Bonus: Get CVS’s Health Savings Pass and save 10 percent on flu shots and visits to CVS’s MinuteClinic retail health clinics.

Discount: As low as $5 for a 30-day supply or $10 for a 90-day supply.

What’s covered: More than 500 generic drugs.

Membership: $10 annual enrollment fee for individuals and households.

Who is covered: All are covered.

Bonus: Join Kmart’s Pharmacy Savings Club and get discounts on hundreds of generic and brand-name drugs (5 to 20 percent off brand-name drugs, 5 to 35 percent off all other generic drugs). You can also get discounts on immunizations.

Discount: $4 for a 30-day supply or $10 for a 90-day supply.

What’s covered: About 300 generic drugs.

Membership: No fee.

Who is covered: All are covered.

Bonus: Earn points toward purchasing discounted gasoline at Kroger fuel centers and participating Shell stations. Prescriptions paid for by Medicaid or Medicare do not qualify.

Discount: $8.99 for a 30-day supply or $15.99 for a 90-day supply.

What’s covered: More than 500 generic drugs.

Membership: No fee.

Who is covered: People not using insurance or publicly funded health-care programs.

Bonus: Enrolling in Rite Aid’s Rx Savings Program can get you discounts on thousands of specified drugs (such as 15 to 20 percent off if you’re uninsured or underinsured).

Discount: $4 for a 30-day supply or $10 for a 90-day supply.

What’s covered: More than 200 generic drugs.

Membership: No fee.

Who is covered: All are covered.

Bonus: Use Target’s discount generic program to earn 5 percent off all Target

purchases made on a single day after filling five eligible prescriptions at the pharmacy.

Discount: $11.99 for a 90-day supply.

What’s covered: More than 400 generic drugs.

Membership: $20 annual enrollment fee per person or $35 annual enrollment fee per family.

Who is covered: People not enrolled in a publicly funded health-care program.

Bonus: Join Walgreens’ Prescription Savings Club and you’ll earn discounts on more than 8,000 brand-name and all generic medications, and save 10 percent on flu shots. And when you buy store-brand products and photo-finishing services, you can earn bonuses for your next purchase.

Discount: $4 for a 30-day supply or $10 for a 90-day supply.

What’s covered: About 300 generic drugs.

Membership: No fee.

Who is covered: All are covered.

Bonus: Participate in Walmart’s Retail Prescription Program and you’ll receive free shipping options, so you won’t even need to go to the store.

Editor's Note: This article and related materials are made possible by a grant from the state Attorney General Consumer and Prescriber Education Grant Program, which is funded by the multi-state settlement of consumer-fraud claims regarding the marketing of the prescription drug Neurontin (gabapentin).
   

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