Are you paying more at the pharmacy counter? Consumer Reports’ Best Buy Drugs experts have ideas that can save you time and money.
  1. Ask for a discount.
    When Consumer Reports had its secret shoppers contact a variety of pharmacies by phone to price a market basket of common medications, they found that asking for the best deal got them occasional discounts. For example, at a supermarket pharmacy outside Des Moines, a shopper was first quoted a price of $75 for generic Actos, a diabetes drug, but after asking whether there was a better deal, she was offered the drug for $21.
  2. Shop around.
    Retail drug prices can differ greatly from one drugstore to the next, even in the same Zip code. For example, in Denver, the grocery store Albertson’s Save-On said its price for generic Actos was $330, but nearby Cherry Creek Pharmacy said it would sell it for just $15. What about online drugstores? Skip those that are based in other countries, no matter how good the discounts. It’s illegal to order drugs for import from outside the United States, and they may not be safe or effective.
  3. Consider Costco.
    In all states, you can fill prescriptions there without being a member. And if you pay for medication out of pocket, you may reap big savings. Consumer Reports’ shoppers found that Costco usually offered the lowest retail prices on drugs. For example, a month’s supply of the antidepressant duloxetine was $220 at a Kmart and a Walgreens in Raleigh, N.C., but only $43 at a nearby Costco.
  4. Call the independents.
    The secret shoppers found that independent pharmacies, which are often smaller, can offer extremely low prices on certain medications. You may also have better luck negotiating at independents, which may have more pricing autonomy than chains. To find out whether an independent near you has a better deal on the medications you take, call several to ask for their absolute lowest prices.
  5. Think 90 days.
    If you take drugs long term, you may be wasting time and paying extra money by making a monthly trip to the pharmacy for refills. Ask your insurance company whether you can get three months’ worth of medicine at a time. If you can, have your doctor write a 90-day prescription.
  6. Skip economy-size OTCs.
    You probably think you save the most money by buying the largest available containers of over-the-counter drugs. But the shoppers found that the savings on medium sizes were often comparable to the biggest bottles because drugs in economy sizes are more likely to expire before you get a chance to use them all. Small sizes of OTCs were the worst buy of all.