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Prescription drug coupons don't always offer the most savings

Posted April 18, 2012

— With or without insurance, prescription drugs can be pricey. Drug manufacturers try to help prices by offering coupons for their products, but even some of those can come with a catch. 

As is the case with most medical expenses, some extra digging and examining of prices – of both prescription drugs and generic medications – is necessary. The extra research can help consumers avoid rising insurance co-pays, some of which are as much as $90 a month. 

Consumer Reports says 19 million patients used at least one drug coupon in 2011, many of them found online. Despite the initial break in price, however, the long-term savings might not add up. 

"Less expensive generics may be available that are equally effective," Consumer Reports' John Santa said. 

The insurance co-pays for generic drugs are also cheaper, sometimes a tenth the cost of their name brand counterparts. 

Lipitor is one prescription drug that advertises big savings. Consumers can get the cholesterol drug for $4 a month through the end of the year with their co-pay card. It's a limited coupon, but for someone only taking the drug for a short time, it can be a big money-saver. 

"There is a generic for Lipitor, but at this point it's just about as expensive," Santa said. "So if you qualify for the $4 Lipitor program, it's a good deal."

As with many drug coupons, consumers who use a federal health care program, like Medicaid or Medicare, don't quality. 

"For people without insurance, it's possible to use many of these coupons," Santa said. "But you're still going to pay a lot of money out of pocket." 

Consumer Reports says the best way to save on prescriptions is still to ask doctors for generic medication.

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  • whatelseisnew Apr 23, 2012

    Of much higher concern is "where are the ingredients for various medications being manufactured". Next concern, when will Doctors stop tossing pills at everything and actually come up with treatment that resolves the medical problem.