Saving On Prescription Drugs

Last year, Americans spent about $230 billion on prescription drugs, and prices continue to rise.

The medical industry blames the increases on greater demand, more uninsured patients and bigger labor costs. However, many consumer groups charge that drug companies are gouging patients. But no matter which side you believe, the fact is, drug prices show no signs of coming down.

But there are easier alternatives. The Early Show medical contributor Dr. Mallika Marshall offers some money-saving tips on Friday.

Using pharmacies in Canada and other foreign countries is a controversial option that is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. However, a growing number of state and local governments are seeking to trim prescription drug costs by using cheaper Canadian imports. If you do decide to try this route, check with your doctor first. Also make sure that it's a reputable operation that has a phone number that allows you to speak directly with a pharmacist.

The following are Marshall's tips for you to save money:

Medicare prescription card
If you are a senior, use the new Medicare prescription card. It is a somewhat complicated system, but Medicare is trying to make it more user-friendly. Basically, if you qualify for Medicare, you can get this card. Among the benefits the card provides is a 10- to 25-percent discount on drugs. Additionally, low-income seniors can qualify for a $600 annual credit that can be used for their medications.

Comparison Shop
Many people go to the pharmacy closest to their home. But the pharmacy closest to your home may not have the cheapest prices in town. Call around to other pharmacies and compare the prices. You could end up saving a good chunk of change.

Go Online
Buying drugs online can be cheaper because, unlike traditional drug stores, they don't have high overhead costs. Before going this route, though, you'll want to comparison shop, because just like traditional drug stores, there can be big price differences.

Join Bulk Prescription Services
If you take a long-term prescription, you'll want to consider buying it in bulk. It's something you'll have to check out with your doctor, but it can offer big savings.

Split Pills
If you take 10 milligrams of a drug that is also sold in 20-milligram pills, you may ask your doctor to prescribe you the 20-milligram pill, which you can then split. However, this is not an option with any time-release medications.

Go Generic
Any popular medications are now available in a generic form. Ask your doctor if this is a valid option for you.