What you can do to help lower prescription drug prices

How to lower prescription costs

A new survey suggests some Americans could do more to cut the cost of their prescription drugs.

The University of Michigan poll shows 27 percent of people between ages 50 to 80 call the cost of their medications a burden, and only 51 percent say they bring it up with their doctor. But for those who did discuss the issue, 67 percent say their physician recommended a drug that cost less. Thirty-seven percent also got similar recommendations from pharmacists.

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So why don't doctors prescribe the cheaper or generic medications from the start? According to CBS News contributor Dr. David Agus, physicians don't always know the costs of the specific drugs.

"When I prescribe a drug to a patient, I look at what the condition is and what drug will work. I don't know their insurance plan, I don't know how much they're reimbursed for that drug, and in many cases, I don't even know the cost of the drug. And so it's difficult as a physician to be able to do that," Agus said Thursday on "CBS This Morning."

Generic drugs can help lower the prices, but that's not always an option for certain patients.

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"There are cases where you're going to have to use a brand drug. But there are a lot of ways to get from point A to point B. So even if there's only a brand drug to do one thing, there may be a generic drug that will do a similar thing by a different means," Agus said.

If cost is an issue while using a brand drug, Agus said people can search the name of the pharmaceutical company and "patient assistance."

"What you'll find is programs that most of the pharmaceutical companies have, that based on your income, can actually discount the drug or there can be coupons or other ways to lower the cost of the drug," Agus said.

He also suggested asking your doctors, "Is there another way to achieve what you're doing without the higher cost?"

"Most of the time the doctors will find a way. But I also warn you every year to look at the list of prescriptions you're on and review them. Many times you're on a drug and it's a legacy drug. People forgot you're on it and you stay on it. So review that list every year," Agus said.