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March 1, 2013

How to save on prescription drugs

(Continued)

Where you purchase your prescriptions can make a difference. Walmart, Walgreens and some other national chains have lists of generics they sell at $4 for a 30-day supply. The lists of these drugs are on their individual websites. Before filling your prescription, check to see if your generic drug happens to be one that's sold for $4.

Mail order

Some consumers try to save money by using mail order pharmacies, though this option can have its glitches and frustrations.

“I placed an order with Medco (now Express Scripts) seven days ago,” Jane, of Montclair, N.J., reported on Feb. 15. “They have sent me several emails in that time saying that they could not reach my physician to approve the order. I had tried to transfer my prescription from my retail pharmacy to Medco.

"The only reason I was doing this was because if I don't use Medco, the pharmacy charges me $200. Anyway, they wouldn't transfer the prescription and said they had to speak to my doctor to have her fax in a new one. When I called my doctor on Tuesday, her receptionist said they hadn't heard anything from Medco. Now today, I got another email saying that they could not reach my doctor and they'd cancel the order by Tuesday if they couldn't get through.”

In addition, mail order pharmacies are not always cheaper, according to Dr. Norman Carroll, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Surprising local savings

Carroll reviewed millions of Medicare Part D prescription drug event (PDE) data and has found that community pharmacies provide 90-day medication supplies at lower cost than mail order pharmacies. Not only that, he said he found that local pharmacists substitute lower-cost generic drugs more often when compared to mail order pharmacies.

"Local community pharmacists not only offer expert medication counseling face-to-face, but they also provide affordable access to prescription drugs and are leading the way in the appropriate use of lower-cost generic drugs," said NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey, CEO of the National Community Pharmacists Association.

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