Comparison Shopping Saves Money on Prescription Medications

An estimated one in five prescriptions goes unfilled, in part due to financial hardship, according to a Kaiser health tracking poll.

Drug prices can vary widely among pharmacies and patients often don’t know how much their prescription will cost until they get to the register.

Pharmacists are contractually prohibited from telling customers if they could save more by paying out of pocket than through their insurance policy.

But consumers can find out with just a few clicks of a mouse.

That’s how Cindi Del Favero saved $90 on her migraine medication, which is no longer covered by her insurance.

Her out-of-pocket cost was $120.

Then she saw an ad for a relatively new website called Blink Health. It takes a different approach than traditional discount drug programs. Customers pay for their prescriptions ahead of time through the Blink Health website or mobile app.

The price is the same at any pharmacy in the Blink Health Network, which includes CVS and Walmart. As of March 1, 2017, Walgreens is no longer part of that network.

“I went to CVS. And at first they didn’t quite know. The pharmacy tech didn’t quite know what to do with it. But she went to the pharmacist and they knew. And it took no time at all. And it went right through and it went from $120 for my prescription to $30,” Del Favero said.

Blink Health negotiates directly with pharmaceutical companies and pharmacy benefit managers for discounts on more than 15,000 generic medications.

“Our patients buy all the regular meds. They buy heart meds, medications for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety," said Matthew Chaiken, Blink Health Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer.

Blink Health also has a deal with drugmaker Eli Lilly to sell its insulins, including Humalog, at a large discount.

“We’ve got an aggressive roadmap to provide more accessibility, better prices and better experiences across all healthcare,” Chaiken said.

GoodRX offers another way to save. The website shows users prices at different pharmacies in your area, which are updated daily. It also offers coupons with big discounts.

The Blink Health price for nine 50 mg tablets of Del Favero’s migraine medication is $15.95.

Using a coupon from GoodRX, Del Favero could get the same medication for $15.77 from Price Chopper or $15.97 from online pharmacy The price at Target is $16.91.

Warehouse clubs also offer substantial savings on prescription drugs.

Sam’s Club offers about 600 generics for $4 and $10 for its Plus members. There is a $100 annual fee. Members are also eligible for extra discounts and five medications are available to members for free.

Del Favero’s migraine medication is on the club’s Extra Value Drugs list. Nine 50 mg tablets would cost her $10 if she were a member.

Costco’s pharmacy is open to non-club members and offers home delivery. Their price for the migraine pills is $16.12.

If a generic isn’t an option, check with the drug maker. Many pharmaceutical companies offer their own prescription assistance programs to help ease the burden.

Express Scripts, the largest pharmacy benefit manager in the U.S., recently entered into a partnership with GoodRX to bring down the cost of certain brand name medications.

Medicare recipients may not be eligible for certain discount drug programs. Your local Area Agency on Aging can answer questions about your benefits and guide you toward an appropriate program. The number is 1-800-994-9422. 

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