Keep Our Families Safe
What would you say if you learned there may be a way to cut your prescription drug bills in half?
According to the AARP (formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons), you may be able to save a considerable amount of money if you start using generic drugs.
Generic drugs are copies of brand-name drugs. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the federal agency responsible for assuring drugs’ effectiveness, generics are identical to brand-name drugs in strength, quality, performance, and safety.
So why do brand-name drugs cost more than generics?
Makers of generic drugs don’t have to pay for the research, marketing, and promotion of drugs when they are first created.
When companies develop new drugs, they apply for patents that allow those companies to be the only sellers of the drugs for a number of years. That way, companies can recoup the money they have invested in the drug.
But when those patents run out, generic drug makers can apply to the FDA for permission to produce a generic version of the patented drug. The generic manufacturers must use the same active ingredients as the brand-name makers. However, because they don’t have to pay for the cost of the research and development that went into the making of the drug, the generic manufacturers can charge less.
The AARP estimates that generic drugs cost 25%-80% less than their brand-name counterparts.
But the AARP believes that even more consumers could be saving money with generics, if the brand-name drug companies would allow it.
The AARP has joined with other plaintiffs in several lawsuits aimed at moving drugs from brand-name to generic status more quickly. A few brand-name drug makers have been twisting the intent of patent rules to delay the ability of generic manufactures to copy brand-name drugs, the AARP says.
The suits will take some time to be resolved, but the AARP hopes that changing the way brand-name drug manufacturers use the patent process will help save consumers millions of dollars every year.
In the meantime, what can you do to save when buying your drugs, prescription or not? The AARP suggests the following tips:
- Ask your physician if you can substitute a less-expensive generic drug.
- Shop around. Different pharmacies, even in the same chain, may charge different prices for the same drug.
- Find out exactly how long you will have to take the prescribed medication and in what doses, so you don’t buy more than you need.
- Find out if you qualify for any discounts, or even free medications through special programs or memberships.
- If you have to take the medicine over an extended time, see if you can order bulk quantities at a discount. But pay attention to your medicines’ expiration dates – and don’t order more than you will use.
- Use caution when shopping for medicines online. While there are online pharmacies that provide legitimate prescription services, there are also questionable sites that make buying medicines online a risky business.
- Don’t let advertising by drug companies lead you to think you need a drug that your doctor hasn’t prescribed. Unnecessary prescriptions will just add to your overall health costs.