Extended-release, sustained-release, or dissolvable tablets, or even an oral solution, can be convenient medicine—but it can also be expensive. Sometimes the original drug may be available as a generic, as is the case with the sleeping pill Ambien (zolpidem). A week’s worth of 5 mg tablets of generic zolpidem costs an average of $12. But the same amount for the 5 mg tablet of the dissolvable version will run you $55, for which no generic is available.
In the case of the antidepressant Prozac (fluoxetine), the 90 mg tablet taken once a week will cost you $211; the generic version is still pricey at $143 per month. But all of the daily doses (10 mg, 20 mg, 40 mg) of generic fluoxetine can be found on lists of discount generics offered by retail pharmacies for as little as $4 a month or $10 for a three-month supply. “The new formulation really isn’t a new discovery per se,” Schondelmeyer says, “but drug companies claim a new use or a little tweak, receive some additional patent life, and continue to raise the price.”
What you can do: Avoid fancy versions of medication, even if they offer some conveniences. If you don’t mind taking your medication once daily or several times a day instead of once a week or even less frequently, you could save big bucks. The same goes for sticking with traditional tablets when possible. Liquid forms, dissolvable tablets, patches, or creams can also be more expensive, although for some people a more convenient form of the medication may be worth the higher price.