Can I really get cheaper meds if I don't use my insurance?

Consumer Reports News: April 30, 2013 10:08 AM

Yes! Many retailers offer discount prices on generics that may be cheaper than your co-pay. We asked our Secret Shoppers to price common generic drugs at more than 200 pharmacies around the U.S. and they found some real deals if you use cash or credit card instead of insurance. For instance, instead of paying a $10 drug co-pay for the generic version of escitalopram (Lexapro), you could instead pay just $7 at Costco.

Also, many retailers, including Kroger, Target, and Walmart, offer long lists of discount generic drugs that cost $4 for a 30-day supply or $10 for 90 days. Common examples include generic versions of the diabetes drug metformin (Glucophage) and antidepressant fluoxetine (Prozac), and even drugs to lower cholesterol, such as lovastatin (Mevacor) and pravastatin (Pravachol).

Overall, Costco provided the biggest savings on the generic versions of the drugs we priced: pioglitazone (Actos), escitalopram (Lexapro), atorvastatin (Lipitor), clopidogrel (Plavix), and montelukast (Singulair). You don't need to be a Costco member to use the company's pharmacy.

Some pharmacies are bound by contracts to bill the claim through the insurance company unless the customer requests otherwise. "So it's always a good idea to compare your insurance co-pay to the pharmacy's everyday retail price," advises Victor Curtis, R.Ph., senior vice president of pharmacy at Costco Wholesale. Other money-saving strategies, says Curtis, are to buy generics where you can and where it makes sense, and to buy in larger quantities: "For the prescriptions you buy on a regular basis, ask your doctor if it's possible to prescribe a 90-day supply."

Teresa Carr

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