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Cut Your Drug Costs

Stanford I. Lamberg, MD
The Village of Cross Keys/Canton

There are a number of ways you can lower your medication costs, especially if you don’t have an insurance company drug plan. Even if you do have a prescription plan, you may find these hints helpful.

1. Compare Prices

Pharmacies differ widely in their charges for the same medication. They get their supplies from different wholesalers, who may stock different generics or offer different “specials.” Pharmacies are required by law to tell you by telephone what your prescription will cost. Call K-Mart, Target, Sams, Drug City, or Costco, and get their price. Major pharmacies, like Giant, will meet the price, although they will probably call the pharmacy where you got a lower price to check on your information. Pharmacies do not advertise their willingness to meet the competition’s prices, and not all pharmacies will do so, but check around.

2. Be aware of differences in Generics vs Brand-Names

Generic medications are supposed to be equivalent to brand-names. This is more-or-less true, but equivalency presents special problems in medications applied to the skin. The active ingredient in a generic may be the same as that in the brandname, but active ingredients may constitute only 1% or less of the total. The generic cream or ointment base, that is, 99% of the tube, may not be as smooth as the base of the brand-name, or may be greasier or smellier . I do not have a way to evaluate generics as there may be dozens of generic brands. Wholesalers send whatever is cheapest or happens to be available at the time.

3. Ask for larger doses that can be split

The cost of a double dose pill often is only slightly higher than the smaller size. For example, 30 tablets of 4 mg Cardura costs $33 while the same number of 8 mg tablets costs $36. If your dose is 4 mg, get the 8 mg and break them in half, and take half a pill each day. You can buy a pill-splitter at any pharmacy for $2-3. Not all pills can be cut in half, however. If pills have a line down the middle, they can be cut. If there is no line, the active ingredient may be in only one side of the pill, and you need to take the whole pill. Ask your pharmacist or take a close look at your pills.

4. Use Online Pharmacies

If you have access to the Web, this is a great way to price shop. Check with,, or go to my website,, and find my complete list of online pharmacies. You also can go to and, two sites that search other online pharmacies for the best deals. If you decide to purchase, the method varies with the website. Some require a prescription from me and some send me a fax to send back.

5. Consider Canadian Drugstores

You may contact the drugstores below by phone, fax, web, or email. The FDA hopes to discourage HMOs from telling patients to get drugs from Canada, but it is unlikely that you would encounter problems. Again, prices do vary from one site to the other, and from medication to medication. We have a price-comparison chart for many of the most common dermatology medications. Ask the staff for a copy.

Redwood Drugs
F/5366 @
Minit Drugs
Le Pharmacy

6. Discount Cards for Seniors from drug companies

Participants must be in Medicare and meet certain income requirements. Most allow discounts to those with incomes below $18,000 for a single person or $24,000 for a couple. Below is a list of the drug companies with plans, and their toll-free phone numbers. Look on the bottle or ask your pharmacist to find the name of the manufacturer. Call the drug company for application forms.

Glaxo Orange Card 1.888.Orange6 or
Novartis Care Card 1.866.974.2273 or
Pfizer Share Card 1.800.717.6005 or
Lilly Lilly Answers 1 877.Rx-Lilly or
Together Rx Card 800.865.7211 or

Plan includes Abbott, Astra Zeneca, Aventis, Ortho McNeil, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Janssen.

I hope this information proves useful.

S. Lamberg, MD