New RX Drug Savings

There are lots of changes with medical care these days, but when it comes to prescriptions, the cost only seems to go up.

The latest? Americans spend over 250 billion dollars a year on prescription drugs. But savvy shopping-even for those covered by insurance-can save you plenty. Consumer Reports explains how.

For people taking prescription medicine regularly, Consumer Reports says the average annual cost is more than 700 dollars, but there are surprising ways to cut your drug costs.

Lisa Gill of Consumer Reports says, "The first thing you can consider is taking an over-the-counter medication for really common ailments, as opposed to taking prescription drug. But of course, you'd want to do that with the advice of your doctor."

For seasonal allergies, Claritin is a good and much cheaper substitute for prescription Xyzal.

For heartburn, over-the-counter Prilosec or store brands containing omeprazole are roughly as good as prescription Nexium at a fraction of the cost.

And for occasional insomnia, look for generic diphenhydramine, the ingredient found in Sominex and Benadryl Allergy, rather than the prescription Lunesta.

Another way you might be able to save-paying for your prescription yourself rather than going through your insurance plan.

Gill says, "Paying out of pocket can be cheaper if you use discount programs at stores like Sam's Club, Walmart, or Target."

For example, paying outright for Pravastatin, which lowers cholesterol, could well cost less than your insurance co-pay.

Gill says, "Other ways to save? If your insurance company has a preferred pharmacy, you definitely want to shop there because you could see some pretty big deals. If they have a mail-order program you may want to check that out, too."

And when shopping for over-the-counter medicine, look for store brands. They're often right next to name brands and can cost a lot less.

Consumer Reports says don't take drugstore displays that say "clearance" or "sale" at face value.

These offers can entice you to but a name brand that's on sale but is still more expensive that the store-brand equivalent.

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