ATLANTA - With prescription drug prices climbing, Fred Elsberry, President and CEO of the Metro Atlanta Better Business Bureau says it pays to go in search of the best possible deal.
"A lot of us don't think about shopping around from pharmacy to pharmacy," says Elsberry.
Elsberry says you can save a lot with a little legwork.
First, ask your doctor for a generic version of the medication you need. Most physicians will automatically write you prescription for a generic, if one is available.
Then, call around or go online and compare store prescription discount plans. Many retail chains from supermarkets to drugstores offer common generics for as little as $4 to $5 a month.
"So, take some time to shop around, particularly if you've got an issue with a drug cost," says Elsberry.
If you don't think you can afford a medication, Elsberry says tell your doctor.
"Most of the time, the effectiveness of that drug for your particular situation is what they're most concerned about," explains Elsberry. "They're not looking at cost."
But if a drug is too expensive, there may be a cheaper alternative your doctor can prescribe. Or, if the drug comes in a tablet, you may be able to get a double dose and use a pill-splitter to stretch your prescription twice as far.
And what about those prescription drug cards, that promise up to 75% off?
"The key there is 'up to,'" says Elsberry. "It could be only 10 % off. But this is not off of your co-pay. So, if you have insurance, probably your co-pay is going to be less than anything you get even with a prescription drug card."
If you don't have drug coverage, Elsberry says the card might save you money. But, read the fine print, and ask your pharmacist how much you are really going to save.
"Use an example of a drug you're already taking," advises Elsberry. "And say, for example, 'I'm paying $85 on this. This card, if I had it, what kind of a discount would I be?'"
For those who don't have drug coverage, or need an expensive medication they cannot afford, a patient assistance program may help. Drug manufacturers offer their medications free or at a very reduced price to patients who meet certain financial and diagnostic criteria.
A non-profit group runs www.needymeds.org, where you can download about 600 applications for medications available through patient assistance programs.
Fred Elsberry says shop around, and ask questions. And don't be afraid to tell your provider about your concerns about medication costs.
"Your pharmacist and your doctor are your best friends," Elsberry says.