Four ways to save on prescription drugs

Navigating the annual health plan changes, figuring out insurance copays, and finding the pharmacy with the best buys can be daunting. Dealing with Medicare's medication coverage gap, the so-called donut hole, adds to the challenge. Four basic strategies can help save money on medications, according to the November 2014 Harvard Women's Health Watch.

Go for generics. "Generics are just as good as brand-name drugs," says Dr. Jerry Avorn, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and they are less expensive than brand-name drugs. Can't find a generic version of a particular drug? A prescription for a generic in the same class of drugs may do nicely. For example, there isn't a generic version of Crestor, a cholesterol-lowering statin. But there are five other generic statins that might work just fine.

Periodically re-evaluate drugs. Every year or so, dump all pill bottles in a paper bag—including over-the-counter medications and supplements. Ask a trusted doctor or pharmacist to review them. Some of the drugs may duplicate the actions of others, have harmful interactions with one another, or aren't needed any more.

Forget about vitamins, minerals, and supplements. These are almost always a waste of money, and can sometimes jeopardize health.

Compare drug prices. Different pharmacies pay different prices to manufacturers and wholesalers. They also use different systems to mark up drugs. That can lead to big differences from one pharmacy to another. Several websites make it easy to comparison shop for medications. But trying to get the best deal on each and every drug could mean losing the advantage of having a trusted and knowledgeable pharmacist. A compromise: fill prescriptions at the pharmacy with the best price for the costliest drug.

Read the full-length article: "Four easy ways to save on prescription drugs"