8 Ways to Save Big and Spend Less at the Pharmacy
From pricey prescriptions, which have risen by 33 percent in the past six years, to supplements and more, pros reveal how to save big and spend less at the pharmacy.
Nab name brands for a steal.
“Prefer a specific brand of medicine? A recent survey of the prices of common over-the-counter medications at CVS and Walgreens found that Walgreens was a clear winner in most categories. For example, a 30-count bottle of Zyrtec allergy medication was $21.99 at Walgreens versus $27.99 at CVS.” -Karen Bennett, money-saving blogger at CheatSheet.com
Ask for an Rx.
“If you take vitamins or over-thecounter medicines for chronic conditions like allergies, you could save by asking your doctor to write a prescription for them. Many items (like antihistamines, vitamin D, and prenatal vitamins) are available in nonprescription strength from the pharmacist. And if your insurance covers prescriptions, your copay could be less than the retail price.” -Teri Gault, author of Shop Smart, Save More
Score 75 percent off store-brand generics.
“Store-brand versions of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines have the same type and amount of active ingredients as name-brand drugs. That means they work just as effectively, but can cost up to 73 percent less. To save the most? Shop Amazon’s Basic Care store (Amazon.com/BasicCare), where you’ll find a huge selection of Amazon brand OTC meds, including cough medicine, pain relievers and sleep aids, for up to 75 percent less than store brands from competing drugstores. -Jane Fey, mom of four, Wilmington, DE
Pick up “off-patents” for less.
“I save a lot by shopping the drugstore for low-cost, tried-and-true options. For example, instead of spending $7 on saline nasal spray, I make my own by mixing 1⁄4 teaspoon of iodine-free kosher salt with distilled water — the drugstore has both for about 99 cents. I simply tilt my head sideways over the sink, breathe through my mouth, then pour the mix in my upper nostril (the liquid drains through the lower one). Keeps my sinuses clear for less!” -Virginia Fouts, retired nurse, Boulder, CO
Stack your coupons.
“You can save the most with coupons just by knowing which order to hand them to the cashier: Start with the type of coupon that says, “Spend $15 and get $3” in credit or points since you want to be rung up at the highest price to trigger the reward — find these coupons in the store’s circular, savings book or the end of store receipts. Next, hand over manufacturer and store coupons that you clipped or found online, and last, scan any loyalty club dollars off to reduce costs spend less at the pharmacy.” -Joanie Demer of KrazyCouponLady.com
Look for “peelies.”
“Seasonal medication shelf displays may seem like they’re offering a good deal; however, that’s usually not the case. The hay fever medicine put out this time of year — when you really need it most — isn’t going to be at its best price. In general, a flashy setup hardly ever indicates that the product is a good deal. To find the best prices, look for specific savings signs on the shelves, they’re usually yellow or orange and will say things like ‘save $2’ or ‘1⁄2 off.’ And look for tear-off coupons, or ‘peelies’ on a pad attached to the display—these coupons almost always translate into true savings at checkout.” – Kyle James, founder of Rather-be-Shopping.com
Skip out on seasonal temptations.
“Drugstores have gotten smarter about tempting shoppers into spending more. Many are set up to encourage you to walk past all those seasonal candy and fun holiday displays —where 76 percent of the store’s sales occur. Instead, head straight to what’s on your list — the heavier your basket gets with what you came to the store for in the first place, the less impulse buying you’ll do.” – Kyle James
Get discounts on prescriptions online.
“To ensure you’re getting the best price for meds and spend less at the pharmacy, it pays to do a quick search on GoodRx, a price comparison website that provides prices and discounts for every FDA-approved prescription. The site is partnered with more than 70,000 pharmacy chains nationwide to provide discounts, and last year, consumers saved an average of 70 percent off the list price of prescriptions they were picking up by using the site. It’s easy to use: Go to GoodRx.com or download the app, type in the name of the drug you are looking for in the search field, click the ‘Find the Lowest Prices’ button, then head to that store for savings.” – Aaron Gilbert, pharmacy manager at HealthWarehouse.com
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.
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