Health insurance companies are charging higher and higher co-pays now top $90 a month. That makes coupons from drug manufacturers enticing, but Consumer Reports has some cautions.
Before heading to the pharmacy, more and more people are heading online to snag a coupon.
Many big-name drugs are offering coupons and other discounts. "Save up to $15 on each prescription for the antidepressant Pristiq." "30-day free trial for the statin, Crestor."
Almost 19 million people who regularly take medication used a drug coupon last year, according to a Consumer Reports survey. But that's not necessarily a good deal.
Dr. John Santa of Consumer Reports says, "Just because a brand-name drug is available with a coupon doesn't mean it's your least expensive option. Less expensive generics may be available that are equally effective."
And insurance co-pays for generics are often much lower-sometimes one-tenth the cost.
Then there's Lipitor, whose money-saving offer is being heavily advertised.
"Lipitor may be available for as little as $4 a month with a Lipitor co-pay card."
For people already taking Lipitor, Consumer Reports says the co-pay card can be a real money-saver, at least for now.
Dr. Santa says, "There is a generic for Lipitor, but at this point it's just about as expensive. So if you qualify for the four-dollar Lipitor program, it's a good deal."
But as with many drug coupons, you don't qualify if you are covered by Medicaid, Medicare, or other federal or state health care programs.
Dr. Santa says, "For people without insurance, it is possible to use many of these coupons. But you're still going to pay a lot of money out of pocket."
The best way to save on prescriptions is to see if your doctor can prescribe a less expensive medicine.
Consumer Reports says you can get discounts on many generic prescription drugs at Target, Walmart, Walgreen's, CVS, RiteAid, and other big retailers and supermarkets.