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Nuts & Bolts

March 1, 2013

How to save on prescription drugs

Prescription drug costs are a growing part of rising health care costs. Some drugs are very expensive and those that carry a moderate cost can be a burden if the prescription must be filled on a regular basis.

For those who don't have prescription drug coverage as part of their health benefits, paying for prescription drugs can be a problem.

An obvious way to save money is to always purchase generic drugs instead of name brands. It's the same medicine but the cost reflects the absence of research and development and marketing costs.

When your doctor prescribes a medication, ask if there is a generic equivalent. Many pharmacists routinely fill a prescription with the generic if one is available. Generic drugs have exactly the same active ingredients and effects as brand-name drugs, but they can cost 30 percent to 80 percent less.

Foreign purchases a no-no

Some consumers try to save money by purchasing prescriptions from outside the U.S., but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says, not only is that illegal, it's a safety hazard.

"When Americans import medicines illegally or buy medicines online from unreliable sources, they are faced with a dangerous buyer-beware situation," says FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford, D.V.M., Ph.D. "The FDA understands why people who are having a hard time paying for prescription drugs might do this. We have been expanding our generic drug program to help make more affordable prescription drugs available. This is one solution that does not put consumers at risk."

If patients can't afford the drugs their doctors prescribe, the FDA views that as a public health issue. That's why the FDA has enhanced the process for the review and approval of generic drugs, and has taken steps to eliminate roadblocks that keep generics off the market.

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