How do I get drugs cheaper?
September 27, 2006 9:01 AM   Subscribe

I need to find a cheaper way to get proscriptions for Lexapro and Ambien filled. Basically there are 3 options A) Drive to Mexico and hope I can get them across the border there B) Try to get it from one of those online Canadian Pharmacies C) Get Another Job and buy them here in the US.

I'm asking this for a friend.

The problem with

A) is that I don't know if a pharmacy down there could fill it and if I could bring it back -- if customs took it I'd be out both the prescription, the money and the trip. Ideally I would like to talk to a pharmacy in Nuevo Lardeo before I drove down there and see if their prices are even worth it.

B) Customs and shipping time... I would need it in 48 hrs -- How do you find a reputable online pharamcy in the first place? They all seem to be from the same company.

C) ... Like I have time for this right now.

My university insurance (I'm a student) doesn't cover drug costs, so I have to pay them entirely out of pocket.
Any suggestions?
posted by bigmusic to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't ordered from a canadian pharmacy (yet), but yesterday I stumbled up , which seems useful and has ratings/a review of each pharmacy it suggests for each drug.

Also, if the 48-hour rush is because you're already taking these drugs and don't want to experience withdrawal, see if you can get a new script for a few days or a week of these drugs to fill at a local pharmacy while your 1 or 2 month supply comes in the mail from a cheaper pharmacy.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:14 AM on September 27, 2006

I'm thinking if you have a valid U.S. based prescription they won't mess with those meds at the border, though I don't speak from authority.
posted by zek at 9:15 AM on September 27, 2006

Switch to cheaper meds. Trazadone is a sleep aide and anti-depressant that works as well as Ambien and is in generic.
posted by OmieWise at 9:17 AM on September 27, 2006

Trazodone works well for some people, but unfortunately did not work at all for me. It did not help me sleep, just made me very, very dizzy and nauseous.
There are other cheaper alternatives to both drugs that you could ask your doctor about, but if you've found something that works, I'd be reluctant to change. I went through several different antidepressants and sleep meds before we found ones that work for me. Ask the doc if he has samples he can give you to help reduce the costs if you want to stay on what you're on now.
I have no experience with foreign pharmacies, so I can't offer any advice there.
Also, drug companies do have programs for people who can't afford meds. I don't know if you'd qualify, but it might be worth looking into.
posted by lawhound at 9:43 AM on September 27, 2006

If you have a valid prescription, you can buy drugs in Mexico and bring them back. I have known lots of people who have done this. I have gone to Mexico with people who brought prescriptions back. Some pharmacies in Mexico even have doctors set up in an office next door to write a script -- it doesn't have to be American.
posted by sugarfish at 9:58 AM on September 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

My experiences buying prescription Ticlid and other meds in Mexico (Baja California) and bringing them back into the US have been uneventful. Costs have been about a half to a third of US prices. Just present your script at the Farmacia, pay your bill and then go have a good lunch before heading home. The border agents are looking for the non-prescription drugs and illegal aliens and have never shown an interest in anything else that we might have in the car coming back into the US.
posted by X4ster at 10:21 AM on September 27, 2006

OMG trazodone is insane. It's a very heavy sedative, not at all like ambien.

I have used Canada Pharmacy and they're great. They take 3 weeks from the time they receive all your paperwork (faxed license and prescription). Some drugs are not cheaper in Canada. You can look it up on their website and they will match any compeditor's price.
posted by scazza at 10:29 AM on September 27, 2006

Yep, getting your prescriptions filled in Mexico is simple and legal.

Also, if having slightly variable dosage from day to day isn't a big deal, I'd recommend asking the doctor prescribe double the required dosage, then splitting the pills. It's apparently not an uncommon request, given the current state of insurance and drug costs.
posted by stefanie at 10:41 AM on September 27, 2006

The patent on Ambien is apparently expiring in less than a month, so I imagine there'll be a generic available soon.
posted by neckro23 at 10:42 AM on September 27, 2006

Lexapro is very close to Celexa. You might consider asking for a prescription for Celexa, then having it filled with generics.
posted by Genki at 10:52 AM on September 27, 2006

Buy it from India?
posted by umlaut at 10:58 AM on September 27, 2006

Trazodone at a small dosage worked well for me after I tired of paying for ambien. $7/month. Cheap. Bonus: it's like a lucid dream machine in pill form.

However, I solved my years years years long sleep trouble by heading to the gym for daily cardio workouts. Go figure. I feel much better in all ways now.
posted by mmdei at 11:13 AM on September 27, 2006

More on the no problem with Mexico. When I was uninsured I went to Nuevo Laredo for meds all the time. The official rule is US CBP will want to see a US prescription if they ask for one. The Mexican prescriptions don't matter. However, that is not usually an issue. The "reasonable amount" of the pills is a 30 day supply.

However, unless you appear suspcious when coming back in the the US, the matter probably won't come up. Every once in a while, you might get randomly selected for a bag check. They are looking for illegal drugs [both pharmacuticals and street drugs] and other such stuff like WMDs. If asked, you should tell them about the meds, but you needn't volunteer it. If challenged, I say I have a prescription for these on file at Walgreens.

I've brought back meds [paxil] w/o a prescription. You don't need to get a Mexican prescription either. [in Nuevo Laredo enterprising young men will try to get one for you from a doctor cheap but ignore them, it is a scam -- these young men will also offer you pain killers, diet pills, street drugs and girls... or boys. It would be funny if it wasn't so sad]. Just go up to the drug counter and ask the pharmacist for what you need and what strength. You might get lucky and find an English speaking clerk, but it is rare. Write it down if you don' thave your doctor's script unless you speak Spanish well. The clerks are used to dealing with Americans who want meds but don't speak Spanish so they will be helpful. They take credit or debit cards. It is best to know the brand name and generic name for drugs [for the two you're talking about the brands are well-known]. The only time you need a prescription is for hard-core narcotic-styled drugs which are illegal to bring across the border even with a prescription.

For the drugs I needed the prices could be as much as 20% of what US retail [depends on the drug. this was for diabetes meds]. Paxil was about 80% the cost of the US generic version. Back when gas was cheaper, it completely made sense to go south of the border, it was cheaper if I stayed the night and had a few beers].

Before I went down there the first time, I tried to see if any Mex sites had websites with prices to no avail. But if you speak Spanish, you can try calling a few. [Mexico's country code is 52] I like the people at the Farmacia Calderon and Farmacia Similares the best. They don't have a credit card surcharge and they don't try to sell you other stuff like vitamins and stuff you don't want or need. The addresses on Guerrero are the ones walking distance from the bridge.
posted by birdherder at 11:46 AM on September 27, 2006

Are you sure your school insurance doesn't cover mail order prescriptions? You might want to look into mail order with or without coverage. Usually you can get a 90 day supply for less than you could from a retail pharmacy.

As a side note, though, my insurance doesn't cover Lexapro, only Celexa. You might want to consider asking your doctor if Celexa might be an ok alternative. Usually if you're upfront with your doctor about your financial situation & lack of coverage, they can help you find a prescription that not only works for your health, but also comes in generic forms and thus can be purchased less expensively.

I'm on Celexa for depression and my doctor recently prescribed me the generic for Ativan as a short term sleep solution. The Ativan only cost me about $5 for a months' supply out of pocket.
posted by tastybrains at 12:51 PM on September 27, 2006

If your friend is low-income (and 'student' probably counts), almost all drug companies have Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs). RxAssist can help you find them. Unfortunately with the new Medicare Part D they're a little more strict, but generally if you meet the income requirements and fill out all the required paperwork, they'll send you a 3-month supply for free. Yes, free. You just need to get your doctor to sign off on them. (You can also renew the 3-month supply.)

Yes, please talk with your doctor; he or she will try to find something that will work if income is an issue.

Switch to cheaper meds. Trazadone is a sleep aide and anti-depressant that works as well as Ambien and is in generic.
Not sure what pharmacy or med school you went to, OmieWise, but this is completely incorrect.

Lexapro is very close to Celexa. You might consider asking for a prescription for Celexa, then having it filled with generics.
I'm not sure what you mean by "close to," but "similar" SSRIs can have very different effects on people. This isn't to say that Celexa or Prozac might not work, but just that you can't make that assumption based on chemical structure or anything.
posted by gramcracker at 1:36 PM on September 27, 2006

Visiting PubMed I see that I overstated the "works as well as Ambien." I'm far, however, from being "completely incorrect." I never claimed the same method of effect, but it's undeniable that Trazodone is an anti-depressant and sleep aid. The Wikipedia article outlines this quite clearly, although the information is readily available elsewhere as well. Regardless, there are generic drugs that work as well as Ambien (here's a PubMed entry on rohypnol working as well as Ambien), so again, not "completely wrong."

My point, as with many of the answers here, is that the specific combo here described may be working well, but that does not make it the only option, nor necessarily the best when all factors are considered. If the differential is a trip to Mexico, maybe it's time to look into other options. Obviously with the advice of the prescribing doc.

(Here's an article that lays out some of the more recent evidence that CBT works as well or better than sleep aides for treating insomnia.)
posted by OmieWise at 2:02 PM on September 27, 2006

Here's a great resource for buying precription drugs in the us and also from canada and other countries.
posted by monkeycool at 2:29 PM on September 27, 2006

Needymeds.Com - a student with a typical "covers basic expenses only" income should have little problem qualifying for help.
posted by Dreama at 3:12 PM on September 27, 2006

Despite your wise-ass remark, gramcracker, YOU'RE wrong. Trazodone IS prescribed as a sleep aid and for me, has worked way, way better than Ambien. It works differently for different people, but so does Ambien, which didn't work for me at all. It's definitely worth asking a Dr. about, bigmusic.
posted by walla at 3:54 PM on September 27, 2006

I switched from Lexapro ($40/month copay) to $10-15/month over-the-counter 5-HTP, which is available in the vitamin/supplements section of most drug stores or pharmacies, or easily orderable online.

Works great for me and got rid of the "brain fuzz" I'd had due to the Lexapro, but it might not work the same for everyone.
posted by mrbill at 4:38 PM on September 27, 2006

I second tastybrains' suggestion to let your doctor know about the financial situation. When I was unemployeed (and before Paxil went generic), my doc would give me some of the sample packs he had.
posted by MikeKD at 5:06 PM on September 27, 2006

I don't know that I'd just up and advise someone to switch from Lexapro and Ambien to trazodone. Trazodone's a pretty OK sleep aid - not as good as Ambien - but it's not really very good as an antidepressant for most people. Any SSRI is much more efficacious in that department. Trazodone will also occasionally just up and ruin your liver for no apparent ("idiopathic") reason.

Switching to Celexa (citalopram) from Lexapro (escitalopram) for cost reasons is a better idea than gramcracker's making it out to be. Citalopram is a 50/50 mixture of stereoisomers; escitalopram is, unsurprisingly, just pure S-citalopram, which is why 40 mg of Lexapro is about as efficacious as 80 mg of Celexa with fewer side effects (the D-isomer doesn't contribute much antidepressant effect, but contributes to the side effects.) Citalopram's patent expired in 2005 so I would expect there to be generic citalopram available.

Some of my patients with valid scrips for clobazam and vigabatrin have had their meds seized at the Mexican border lately (shipped, not transported in person). Another problem is that Mexican pharmacies are full of counterfeit meds. You just don't know what you're getting. I haven't heard of this being a problem with Canadian meds.

I suggest consulting the prescribing doc about these issues. Most docs will work with you on this issue, which is quite common.
posted by ikkyu2 at 6:58 PM on September 27, 2006

You may want to just spend some time calling around before you commit a half-day to the trip. If you have access to some of the big box stores you may get prices that are just as low, once you factor in the prices for gas and other incidentals. shows a 30 day supply of lexapro at about 77 versus CanadaPharmacy's 52. For Ambien it's 106 at Costco, I'm not seeing it on the CP website.
posted by phearlez at 9:42 AM on September 28, 2006

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