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Prices on the new generic Plavix vary widely, so shop around

Consumer Reports News: May 24, 2012 01:08 PM

Those looking to save on the new generic Plavix (clopidogrel) are in luck. We phoned 30 pharmacies around the U.S. and found the price for a month's supply of the 75 milligram (mg) dose varied from less than $15 at several Costco pharmacies to $175 or more at the CVS, Target, and Walgreens stores we contacted. Walmart consistently quoted us less than $50, as did several independent pharmacies. The online drugstore lists a 30-day supply for $35. Bottom line? It pays to shop around.

Only two of the pharmacies we spoke with reported they did not have generic Plavix in stock yet. None of the pharmacies had the 300 mg dose available.

If you want to stick with brand-name Plavix there is also some good news, at least for now. The drug's manufacturer is running a discount co-pay program where you won't pay more than $37 out-of-pocket for a 30-day supply, and they'll pick up the tab after that, to a max of $176.50 per month. The discount program expires December 31, 2012. Other restrictions apply, so be sure to read the fine print on the offer.

For those who don't opt for the generic or the discount program, our analysis shows that brand-name Plavix costs an average of $225 for a month's supply, if you paid out-of-pocket, without insurance. Thankfully for consumers, once the patent expired last week, several drug companies immediately started producing the generic version of Plavix, which likely helped lower prices at many of the stores.

The blockbuster drug, first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1997, has been a superstar among top-earning drugs. In 2011 alone, Plavix earned $6.8 billion and ranked #2 in total U.S prescription drug sales, according to figures from IMS Health.

Taken alone or with aspirin, Plavix has long been a recommendation by Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs for those diagnosed with acute coronary syndrome (e.g. unstable angina or have had a heart attack), if you've had a stent implanted, or you've had a stroke or ministroke (TIA). You might know Plavix and related drugs as "blood thinners." Technically, they don't actually thin the blood; instead, they decrease the clumping of blood cells called platelets. This lowers the risk that potentially harmful blood clots will form.

An important safety reminder for those who take generic or brand-name Plavix: Some people also take a second drug to decrease stomach irritation and bleeding that can occur with Plavix. Those include drugs like Nexium (esomeprazole), Prilosec (omeprazole and generic), or other proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). These medications can reduce the effectiveness of Plavix. Several studies have found that heart attack patients who took a PPI and Plavix could increase their risk of having another heart attack.

See our more detailed advice and recommendations about taking medications like Plavix in our Best Buy Drugs report on antiplatelet medications.

Have you found a good deal on generic Plavix? Is your insurance covering it or not? Tell us about it!

Lisa Gill

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