U.S. currency inside of pills bottles.

As consumers, we know the difference between products we want and products we need. For luxury or convenience items, it’s easy enough to hold off on a purchase if our budget demands it—but for the things we can’t live without, waiting for a good deal isn’t an option. That’s why it’s so alarming for many Americans to see the prescription drugs they rely on increasing in price every year, with some reaching truly unaffordable heights. U.S. consumers often pay more for medications than people in other industrialized nations—a long-standing national crisis that shows no signs of abating. In some cases, these price hikes force people to forgo medication, miss payment on important bills, or seek out a second job.

This month, in our special report, “The Shocking Rise of Prescription Drug Prices,” we break down the costs of prescription drugs to help you better understand why prices are rising so sharply. We outline the role that drug companies and insurers play, and we take a careful look at the role of the little-known industry middlemen (called pharmacy benefit managers) who play an outsized role in driving up consumer prices.

While federal lawmakers have introduced dozens of bills to rein in costs, Congress has failed to bring any meaningful legislation across the finish line in almost a decade. But at the state level, there are signs of progress. In October, California’s governor signed a pro-consumer bill prohibiting brand-name drug companies from paying generic drug manufacturers to delay the introduction of their generics. CR is advocating for similar legislation at the federal level, but consumers cannot put their medications on hold while politics play out, which is why we’re offering some important tips to help you lower your prescription medication costs in the short term. You might not have much of a choice when it comes to taking your medicine—and that’s why CR is fighting hard to make sure you can get what you need without emptying your wallet, or sacrificing your health.

Editor’s Note: This article also appeared in the January 2020 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.