How you can tackle the high cost of prescriptions - KTEN.com - No One Gets You Closer

How you can tackle the high cost of prescriptions

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DENISON, Texas -- When it comes to going to the doctor and getting a new prescription, the process is stressful enough.

An investigation by Consumer Reports shows the same prescription drug can vary widely in price from pharmacy to pharmacy, even within the same zip code.

When long-time Denison resident Bill Dawson found himself in the hospital for more than a week due to an infection in his leg, his life changed. Another surprise came when he found out how much his medication would cost.

"It was almost $2,000," he said. "I couldn't afford it." "

Dawson needs 13 different medications twice a day. His only choice was to find a different option.

Emergency physician Dr. David Darrigan said Dawson's plight is actually quite common. "A lot of the time, the patients will call and say, 'It's too much money at this pharmacy; can you call and prescribe something else?'"

Dr. Darrigan said he and his colleagues will do their best to help, but the much of the responsibility falls on the patient.

"The patient can do good for themselves by calling around to different pharmacies, and seeing where the best deal might be available," he said.

That's exactly what Bill Dawson did.

"I spent hours and days on the phone," he said. "I literally had to go to six different places to even afford it ... don't be hesitant to ask if it's cheaper, or if there is a generic available."

And that's where pharmacists like Steven Gordon of Centrx Pharmacy at Texoma Medical Center come in.

"First off, ask the pharmacist, because the pharmacist will know," he said.  "We do the best we can to try to find a lower cost alternative, or find a manufacturer's coupon for the prescription. A lot of times, if it's a brand name, it's really simple: We just do a web search, find a coupon, download it for the patient, process it, and get a cheaper price."

But there are times when there just isn't another money-saving option for patients.

"There have been times where I've had to buy it, and those particular times, it was hard," Dawson said.  "I had to go without certain things for a while."

So it pays to ask, especially when it's for a drug with irregular prices like Cymbalta, prescribed to treat depression and anxiety.

"Cymbalta is just one of many that we get calls for, but it's a common one that has been reported with such a high price difference," Dr. Darrigan said.

Consumer Reports found that Walgreens quoted $220 for a month's supply of generic Cymbalta in the Dallas area. Compare that to just $40 at Costco, and only $23 at Avita Pharmacy, an independent drug store. That's nearly a 1,000 percent swing between the high and low prices.

"There can be an astounding difference between them," Dr. Darrigan said. "The calls I have received from different pharmacies can range anywhere from $200 at a certain pharmacy to $20 at a local pharmacy. So you can see the price range is just unbelievable."

There are online sites and mobile apps that you can utilize, like GoodRx.com and BlinkHealth.com that let you compare prices in your zip code and search for coupons. But it's important to be wary.

"Sometimes they're going to be honest, and sometimes they are going to be stealing your information and using it for their purposes," Gordon said. "You definitely need to be careful on where you go."

"You really just want to use one of the few approved apps, like the GoodRx, and not type into Google," Dr. Darrigan advised.

In the end, the most helpful tool could be you.

"Talk to your doctor and pharmacist, and become friends with your pharmacist. They can give you information," Dawson said. "I went from $2,000 and got everything down to $600."

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