- Do you pay cash for medication?
- Are you uninsured or have a high deductible plan?
- Do you know the cost of medication varies greatly among different pharmacies?
- If you have insurance your co-pay may be more expensive than the cost of paying out of pocket for the medication!
Why do medication costs vary between pharmacies?
Wow is this complicated! There are so many different factors and players involved. Due to lack of transparency, it’s hard to know who to blame. Wikipedia has a good general overview of different contributors to medication pricing.
Is it the pharmacy benefit manager’s (PBR) fault? The PBR is the middleman negotiator between some pharmaceutical companies, insurers, and pharmacies. Some PBR’s prohibit pharmacists from telling patients that it is cheaper to pay cash for a medication than use their insurance! (Read more about this here).
Is it the pharmacies’ fault? Pharmacies negotiate their own rates with suppliers and set their own profit margins. Also, pharmacies often set cash prices with insurance companies in mind. Since the majority of people filling prescriptions are using their insurance the priority is to not charge less than what the insurance company is willing to pay. For more on how prescription medications get their prices read this article in Newsweek.
I’m going to introduce you to THREE programs that can save you money on medication!
(FYI- I have no financial incentive for recommending these sites. I just happen to think saving money is good and that it is lousy that people sometimes get ripped off paying for overpriced medication)
There are different ways to use GoodRx. You can get a general discount card to bring to the pharmacy, print coupons from your computer, or download the app so you can compare the prices at different pharmacies in real time.
I recommend downloading the app because then the coupon is on your phone and you know which pharmacy is cheapest.
Be a smart shopper!
There is a big range in prices at different pharmacies but with GoodRx you can see ahead of time what the cost will be. Make sure you compare prices for each of your medications as the price may be cheap for one medication but expensive for another.
On the GoodRx app it is as simple as looking up your medication and comparing the prices at different pharmacies. When you get to the pharmacy click on the coupon in the app and it will bring up codes that the pharmacy can scan. It works!
Here is a quick video explaining how GoodRx works: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=9qkXs768JKY
GoodRx now has a Gold program that is $9.99/month which includes up to 6 family members. They claim to save even more money off of their regular reduced prices so if you fill lots of prescriptions it may be worth looking into this program.
WellRx works the same as GoodRx. It is best to download the app and search for the cheapest pharmacy to get your medication. At the pharmacy, click on the coupon in the app to get the medication for that price.
Although WellRx and GoodRx are very similar some medications may still be less expensive on one or the other. It may be worth your time to run the medication through both of these apps to see which coupon saves the most.
With this program, you search for the prescribed medication and pay online at Blink Health. Print out your receipt, bring it to the pharmacy, and pick up your medicine without having to pay anything to the pharmacy.
There are certain pharmacies that participate in the Blink Health program. Click on the link and search for a list of local pharmacies by putting in your area code.
Here is a quick video explaining how Blink Health works:
I compared the cost of a few different medications if you pay cash at the pharmacy (not using insurance), use a GoodRx or WellRx coupon, or buy the medication at Blink Health. Prices fluctuate so this chart is a general example to demonstrate the difference in prices.
Remember there is a large range in both the pharmacy cash price and GoodRx/WellRx price so it is important to check the pharmacies in your area to find the cheapest.
|Medication||Cash price range||GoodRx/WellRx range||Blink price|
|Escitalopram 20 (Lexapro) #30||$11-$131||GoodRx $9-$50 WellRx $9-$52||$9.85|
|Methylphenidate ER 27mg (Concerta) #30||$252-$326||GoodRx $105-$204 WellRx $149-$266||$260.47|
|Methylphenidate 10mg (Ritalin) #30||$29-$121||GoodRx $14-30 WellRx $14-31||$27|
|Buproprion XL 300 (Wellbutrin XL) #30||$21-$140||GoodRx $17-$52 WellRx $20-$73||$24|
|Ambien 10mg #30||$15-$54||GoodRx $9-$15 WellRx $7-17||$7|
Blink Health, GoodRx, and WellRx are great options to save money on prescriptions.
Because of the lack of pricing transparency at pharmacies, it is difficult to be a smart shopper unless you use programs like these. Even if you have insurance it is worth it to compare your co-pay to the cash price. If your medication is generic it may be cheaper to buy the medication without using your insurance.
Do you shop around for medication prices? What discount programs do you use to save money? How much money have they saved you? Let me know!