How to save money on skyrocketing drug prices

Some people find staying healthy is breaking the family budget. Their prescription drugs are too expensive.

Gus Gustofson of Hartsburg tried to get a prescription filled for a painful stomach problem, but when he first tried to buy the drug at a large chain store he was shocked.

"I looked at the label," said Gustofson. "And didn't think I saw it right at first because it said $435."

The pharmacist assured him that was the price after insurance paid 80 percent and the pharmacy applied a $50 coupon from the drug maker-Gustofson immediately started shopping around.

He tried another pharmacy and checked the drug's retail price without using insurance coverage. That was a couple hundred dollars less, but still too much to pay on a monthly basis.He then tried a third time at the Hy-Vee Pharmacy in Jefferson City and they submitted his insurance information again. He finally he got some good news.

"It would cost me just my $50 co-pay," said Gustofson. "And as it turned out the coupon from the drug manufacturer was for $50, so I got the product for nothing."

When Cheri Buckner of Ashland found out in January the drug she had been taking for eight years was reclassified as a branded generic, her $10 co-pay went up to $48. Her pharmacist suggested she skip the insurance and buy the drug at its retail price which was about $15.

"I can't believe that that's legal," says Buckner. "It's just floors me that they get away with that."

When Cecilia Holbrook of Ashland tried to help her son get a prescription filled without insurance she turned to the web and ordered from Canada.

"I would say we saved at least a third of what we would pay if we bought it locally," said Holbrook.

So why the differences?Hy-Vee Pharmacy Manager Marrianne Ryno says the key is the person who processes the claim.

Her store finds insurance companies deny claims 14 percent of the time the first time they are submitted. She says you have to have to give the pharmacy time to work the claim, and be patient.

"If they don't have the time to really critically look at the claim to find why it's not paying, or take the time to call their insurance company to find out why they have issues with it," said Ryno. "We aren't going to be able to process it as efficient and as price worthy for the customer."

She says having enough time to process a claim is even more time consuming when a patient has primary and secondary insurance.

Here are more tips for saving money at the pharmacy.

  • Buy generic
  • See if the drug prescribed is on your insurance company's preferred list
  • Buy a 90 day supply
  • Look for stores with a $4 drug plan, these drugs will go for less than your insurance co-pay
  • Consider an over-the-counter drug that may work as well
  • Check the retail price of the drug
  • Ask your doctor for samples
  • Ask your doctor or the pharmacy for a drug coupon from the manufacturer, or Google the drug name and the word "coupon" for online savings

If you don't have insurance, ask your pharmacy about prescription assistance programs and drug discount cards. The discount cards are available through county government offices and electric co-operatives and some retail businesses.