Some doses of wisdom when shopping for drugs

August 31, 1993|By Linell Smith

Physicians and pharmacists offer the following tips for saving money on prescription drugs:

* "A patient should always ask if there is a generic -- or a similar product with a generic available that would still do the trick," says David Miller, executive director of the Maryland Pharmacists Association. "Most drugs on the market now do have some similar, less expensive product available or generic equivalent."

* Order a larger dose of medication. "If you are on a chronic medication, ask your physician whether you can get a three-month supply at once so that you will only pay one dispensing fee rather than three one-month supplies," says Stephen Schondelmeyer, director of the University of Minnesota's Pharmaceutical Research in Management and Economics Institute. "But make sure you are stabilized on the drug first, because you can't take it back for a refund."

* Shop for the best prices, phoning local drugstores as well as mail-order pharmacies. Prices for prescription drugs can range widely, depending upon where you shop and what services the pharmacy offers.

Most of the roughly 60 mail-order companies deal exclusively with corporate health plans and health maintenance organizations. But a few, such as AARP, deal directly with consumers.

The AARP Pharmacy Service is available to all members of the American Association of Retired Persons, but anyone can become a member for $8 a year. For membership information, call (202) 434-AARP. For price quotes on drugs, call 1 (800) 456-2226.

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