Where are the absolute cheapest places to get prescription drugs?
November 6, 2009 8:20 AM   Subscribe

I'm thinking about switching my health insurance to a high-deductible health plan, but I need to get a handle on what all my allergy prescriptions will cost me. I think that I will be able to build up some stockpiles during this year, but I want to know how much I will actually be out of pocket when it comes time to pay for them.

What is the absolute cheapest way to get the following prescriptions?

(I'm in Chicago, but assume that I am fine with mail order, will jump through a lot of hoops, and am interested in both US-based and possibly Canadian-based pharmacies, but I want them to be legal, legitimate pharmacies if they are abroad, and I want to understand how much of a risk I am taking with customs.)

Advair diskus 100/50
Singulair 10MG
Astelin 137 MCG
Veramyst 27.5 MCG
Ventolin HFA

(Anonymous just because I don't like the idea of the details of my health care being out in the wild.)
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Did you call your potential new Plan to ask for cost estimates? If it's say 90% of covered drugs (and you can list them) they can tell you. Are there generic equivalents? Plus WalMart is supposed to be the cheapest for all drugs. They have a $4-10 program. Here's the list.

Also, perhaps your nurse at the doc office who prescribes these can help guide you in finding a good pharmacist/reimbursement program. My mom's oncology nurse did the extra legwork to get her free chemo drugs as opposed to the $3k a round.

Finally, call the drug makers. Sometimes they have assistant packages where you can get it at a low cost or free.

Hope this helps. Good luck. Sorry I know nothing about online pharmacies.
posted by stormpooper at 8:33 AM on November 6, 2009

In a lot of cases, deductible does not apply to prescriptions. You can try to get a high deductible plan with a pretty good drug card.
posted by 3dd at 9:01 AM on November 6, 2009

Ventolin comes generic, about $10-15/mo (albuterol). Switch Veramyst to fluticasone nasal (virtually identical drug), also $10-15/mo. Talk to your doctor about changing Advair to a simple inhaled steroid like Qvar -- this lacks the salmeterol contained in Advair but many well controlled asthmatics can get by without it and there have been some concerns raised about the safety of salmeterol anyway. With astelin and singulair you don't have good generic alternatives, but do talk with your doctor and decide if you really are benefitting from them.

Needymeds.org is the first place to go if you want to get on any kind of patient assistance from pharmaceutical companies, but keep in mind they have income guidelines and my guess is that if you can even afford a high deductible plan, you probably make too much to qualify for freebies from Big Pharma.

Call around to different pharmacies to compare costs, they differ a lot on their mark-up. Around here, Costco is generally cheapest. Also, there is an entire industry in Canada built around Americans travelling there to get cheaper drugs, so that may be a possibility.

Finally, and this is my least favorite recommendation, ask your doctor whether he/she accepts drug samples (and based on the fact that they are prescribing Veramyst, I'm guessing they are in the pocket of Big Pharma) -- they might be able to keep you stocked for a while this way. Keep in mind that this is just adding to the problem of unaffordable drugs so you have to make the best decision that you can live with.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:04 AM on November 6, 2009

Regardless of what other suggestions people have for cheap sources for RX drugs, I'm going to second stormpooper and suggest you also check with the carrier that will offer the high-deductible health plan (HDHP) and find out how much you would be paying by using their preferred drug vendor. Two reasons for this:

(1) Some HDHPs actually cover certain types of preventative care and/or medications that manage chronic illness at 100% reimbursement, regardless of whether you've hit your deductible for the year; and

(2) Insurance companies play two roles for their enrollees--they both negotiate prices with providers, and pay the bills. Using a HDHP means the second piece (paying the bills) doesn't kick in until you've spent a certain amount out-of-pocket, but the first part--negotiating sometimes-large discounts from providers and pharmaceutical companies--is in effect even before you hit your deductible. Depending on how big the carrier is, these discounts can be really substantial, on the order of 50-70% off what you'd be paying as an individual. There's a chance that it's still cheaper to buy through the insurance company's mail-order system even if you are responsible for 100% of the charges.
posted by iminurmefi at 9:17 AM on November 6, 2009

As a Chicagoan without insurance I can tell you that when paying totally out of pocket your best bets are usually Costco, Sam's Club or Walmart. I always call around to find the best price which you can get over the phone. You don't need to be a club member at Costco or Sam's to use the pharmacy, just walk by the checker and if they hassle you tell them you're going to the pharmacy. As for what your new policy might cover and at what rate, you'll have to call and find out.
posted by Bunglegirl at 10:08 AM on November 6, 2009

FWIW, I've just asked my pharmacist what my prescriptions cost without insurance.

Target and Kroger are also getting on the $4 prescription bandwagon. Just checking online quickly, I see that the Ventolin inhaler is $9 at Wal-Mart, but I don't see the other generic equivalents. Have you considered talking to your doctor about this issue? He or she may be able to prescribe you generics for explicitly this purpose.
posted by runningwithscissors at 10:49 AM on November 6, 2009

Hi, I live in Ontario, Canada and the Singulair 10MG alone would be $90/month for me w/o a drug plan.
posted by saradarlin at 12:35 PM on November 6, 2009

I've been using CanadaDrugPharmacy.com. They have really reasonable prices (I don't have health insurance, so I pay for everything out of pocket) and pretty good customer service. And as far as shadiness... well, I've been taking meds from them for almost a year and they all seem to be doing what they're supposed to.
posted by dithmer at 8:31 PM on November 6, 2009

Also, if you are worried about what customs has to say about it (which I've never encountered a problem at all and it says "Medication" right on the box, more or less) this is what Wikipedia has to say about it, for what it's worth.

Very rarely are these orders investigated because U.S. authorities are much more worried about controlling illegal pharmacies in the U.S., not consumers themselves. In fact, the Washington Post reported that ".. millions of Americans have turned to Mexico and other countries in search of bargain drugs...U.S. Customs estimates 10 million U.S. citizens bring in medications at land borders each year. An additional 2 million packages of pharmaceuticals arrive annually by international mail from Thailand, India, South Africa and other points. Still more packages come from online pharmacies in Canada."
posted by dithmer at 8:36 PM on November 6, 2009

« Older Prolonged fever in a toddler   |   Boston area professor with alternative history... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.