The sharp and steady rise in prescription drug prices shows no sign of slowing down.

The latest evidence: The AARP Public Policy Institute just released a report that says that retail prices for widely used brand-name prescription drugs surged 15.5 percent in 2015, the fourth year in a row of double-digit increases. Retail prices increased for 97 percent of the 268 brand-name prescription drugs analyzed in the study.

The data tracks the amount billed to your health insurance plan, not the out-of-pocket costs that you pay for prescriptions at a pharmacy. But as insurance companies cope with higher drug prices, those costs are being passed on to consumers through higher premiums, co-pays, and co-insurance (where you pay a percentage of the cost of the medication), says Leigh Purvis, Director of Health Services Research for the AARP Public Policy Institute and co-author of the report.

For the growing number of people in high-deductible plans, the rise is especially painful. They typically must pay the full cost of prescriptions before they reach their deductible and insurance begins to cover a portion of the bills. More than one-quarter of insured workers have high deductible health plans with deductibles that average $2,295 for individual coverage, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

A nationally representative telephone poll conducted by Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs in March found that three in 10 Americans (about 32 million people) were hit with price hikes within the previous 12 months, costing them an average of $63 more for a drug they routinely take—and a few paid $500 or more.

“Even if patients are fortunate enough to have good healthcare coverage, high prescription drug costs translate into higher out-of-pocket costs,” Purvis says.

How to Lower Your Medication Costs

Although there’s little consumers can do to control the forces propelling drug prices, you can take these actions recommended by Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs to lower your own prescription medication costs.

Talk to your doctor. Patients typically don't think to discuss cost with their doctors. But research shows that when they do, doctors often can provide less costly alternatives. Ask about less expensive alternatives such as generics, which can cost up to 90 percent less than brand names. Your doctor might also consider a therapeutic substitution of a less costly drug that works just as well. If your insurance company drops or reduces coverage for a specific drug, ask your doctor to appeal to your insurance company for an exception.

Consider not using your health insurance. 
In some circumstances you could find a drug priced lower than your insurance co-pay, so you'll save bypassing insurance and buying directly. CR Best Buy Drugs secret shoppers have found retail prices at Costco consistently the lowest among chain stores. You don’t need to be a member to use its pharmacy, though joining can net you more discounts. Also, don't forget your independent mom and pop pharmacies nearby; they may offer prices even lower than Costco's.

Try a $4/$10 discount generic drug program. Most chain and big-box stores offer hundreds of common generics at prices as low as $4 for a 30-day supply and $10 for a 90-day supply for people who pay out of pocket. Sam’s Club even fills some prescriptions free for members. Check the fine print: There may be a small fee to sign up, and not all discount programs are open to people with Medicare, Medicaid, or military Tricare insurance. And keep in mind that when you bypass your insurance, money spent on your medication won’t count toward your deductible or out-of-pocket maximums.

Ask for a 90-day prescription. For drugs you take long term, it can be more convenient and even cheaper. For example, if you use insurance, you’ll pay one co-pay rather than three. And for discount generic drug programs, paying $10 for a 90-day supply works out to less than $4 every 30 days.

Look online. If you’re paying out of pocket, check GoodRx to learn its “fair price” and use that to negotiate if a pharmacist quotes you a higher price. You can also fill a prescription with an online pharmacy such as Just be careful about the one you choose. Only use an online retailer that clearly operates within the U.S. and displays the VIPPS symbol to show that it’s a Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site. Most sites that bill themselves as Canadian are actually fake storefronts selling low-quality or counterfeit products.

Choose a plan that covers the medications you need. Compare plans during the open-enrollment period for your insurance (typically in the fall) because coverage may change from year to year. Keep in mind that high-deductible plans have lower premiums but require you to pay a larger chunk of your drug costs.