Getting Creative with Going Generic

The word “generic” conjures blah, boring images.  It seems synonymous with “mediocre”, like the Fruity O’s my mom used to buy instead of Fruit Loops or the off-brand peanut butter cups that never satisfy quite like a Reese’s.  But, when it comes to medications if we are willing to forgo colorful packaging and flashy marketing, often we can get the same product at a much lower price.

Generic medications are excellent, cost effective alternatives to the medications we see advertised on TV.  While their names may be difficult to pronounce and the appearance of their packaging nothing to write home about, generic medications contain the same ingredients as their branded counterparts.  By law, generic medications must be made with the same mix of ingredients of the brand name medications they are copying.  They may have a different size, shape or color than the branded alternative but the way they work in your body is exactly the same.

Switching to a generic alternative can take a little creativity.  Your healthcare provider may not have the time to navigate the ins and outs of the drug market.  But, by doing a little research on your own, you could save hundreds, even thousands of dollars each year on your prescription medications.  Here are a few loopholes you can look for that could save you money on your next trip to the pharmacy.

1. Consider Different Pharmacies

Price shopping your medications is an easy way to save money.  Pharmacies price drugs differently.  For example, Walgreen’s may charge $45 dollars for a one-month supply of a certain medication while grocery chain Kroger may charge $25.  Over the course of a year, switching pharmacies could save you $240 on this prescription alone.  To get prices for your prescriptions medications, call pharmacies in your area to ask about pricing.  This process can be time consuming.  To save time, a good rule of thumb is that if a store is known primarily as a pharmacy, it’s medications are more likely to be expensive.  Places like Wal-Mart and Costco are usually the cheapest.

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2. Look for Medication Savings Programs

Many drug companies post coupons on their website.  If you take brand name medications, visit the manufacturer’s website or do a Google search for coupons for your specific medications.  Often, these coupons allow you to purchase medications selling for over $100 for just $20 to $30. is an excellent resource for price shopping medications as well as finding medication coupons.  A prescription for antibiotic clindamycin, for example, costs about $119.  With a coupon printed on GoodRX, this medication costs just $38.

3. Avoid Extended Release and Combination Medications

Convenience is key when it comes to taking medications and drug manufacturers are always looking for ways to simplify your medication regimen.  Time release medications, often labeled “ER” for extended release or “SR” for sustained release, allow you to take a medication just once a day rather than multiple times per day.  Unfortunately, these time release medications are more costly.  Another tactic drug manufacturers use is combining two medications into one to decrease the number of pills you have to take each day.  These combination medications are pricey and taking each medication separately as two pills instead of one may save you money.

4. Switch Dosages

Many medications, especially those prescribed for chronic diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes come in multiple dosages.  While I don’t recommend changing the dosage your healthcare provider prescribes for a certain medication, taking your current dosage in a different way can save you money.  For example, the high cholesterol medication Crestor costs about $160 per month if you have a prescription for one 20mg tablet per day.  The medication costs the same for a 40mg dosage.  So, if you take 1/2 tablet of a 40mg pill rather than your usual 20 mg tablet, your prescription cost would be cut in half.  This would save you $960 over the course of a year.  In some cases, higher dosage medications may cost more than their low dose counterparts while in other cases the opposite is true.  Look at the costs associated with different dosages of your current medications and see if there is a way you can mimic your current prescribed dosage for a lower price.

5. Always Ask for Generic

While prescribing generic medications may seem intuitive, healthcare providers write prescriptions out of habit  They may not be aware when generic alternatives of certain medications become available or may simply forget to recommend a generic alternative.  When you visit your healthcare provider, always request generic medications.  Double check with the pharmacist when picking up your medications at the pharmacy.  80% of FDA approved medications have generic alternatives so odds are good your branded medications are available at a generic lower cost.

How much did you save by getting creative when it comes to finding generic medication alternatives?


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