A just-released survey from Consumer Reports' subscribers shows only 33% of drug purchases were covered by insurance for the most part or in full. That's way down from the 65% coverage in 2002.
Tod Marks, Consumer Reports, says "Chain drugstores are still where the lion's share of drugs are purchased. But more and more people are actually going online to purchase their drugs. About 10-thousand supermarkets in the U.S. are equipped with drug stores. And more and more people are finding those extraordinarily convenient."
With so many choices, are there ways to save on prescription drugs? Consumer Reports compared the cost of four common drugs at 13 different stores and web sites. It turns out prices for Plavix, Levoxyl, Detrol, and Alendronate varied significantly.
"We found that there was a tremendous price fluctuation for the same drug. You know sometimes of a hundred dollars or more for a single prescription," says Marks.
Consumer Reports' price comparison for these four drugs shows Costco had the lowest prices overall. Web sites like aarp.com and walgreens.com were also relatively inexpensive. But don't count out independent drugstores.
"They've received high scores for many, many years from since we began our study of pharmacies, and we also found that many are competitive on price," says Marks.
Buying generics can also help. They can often cost 20 to 50 percent less than their brand-name equivalents. The bottom line: it pays to shop around for the cheapest prescription by checking out prices online, by phone, or in person.
Consumer Reports says another way to save on prescriptions includes enrolling in store discount programs like Kmart's gold K program. Stores like Wal-Mart and Target sell a month's supply of hundreds of generic drugs for four dollars a prescription.