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Drug coupons don't always save money

Published: February 2009

A full-page newspaper ad in The Washington Post in November 2008 offered a free 30-day supply of type 2 diabetes drug Januvia (sitagliptin). But you'd save $2,254 during the first year if your physician prescribed generic metformin—a Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs pick—instead of Januvia, even with the 30-day voucher. That's according to information derived by Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs from Pharmaceutical Audit Suite (PHAST) data provided by Wolters Kluwer Health, a health-care information company. And you can save even more if you buy online or at mass-merchant outlets such as Costco, Target, or Wal-Mart.

That's the problem with drug vouchers and coupons. They're reasonable to use for free refills or to defray co-payments for prescription drugs that you're already taking, says William Shrank, M.D., a drug economics expert at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School. But seemingly sweet deals might cost far more in the long run if they keep you on newer, high-priced brand-name drugs rather than generic or lower-cost medications that are equally effective, Shrank and other experts say.

Bottom line. Consumers in search of temporary price breaks on prescription drugs might find coupons, vouchers, and free offers at drugmakers' Web sites and at www.internetdrugcoupons.com and www.optimizerx.com. For independent and unbiased comparative drug information, go to www.consumerreports.org/health/best-buy-drugs/.


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