Discount Drugs, Are They Right For You?

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The recent rol out of the $4 generic drug program by large national retail chains has prompted many people to consider switching pharmacies.

The pricing plan has received both criticism, as a marketing scheme, and praise, as an effective strategy to help make medicine more affordable for people without insurance. But consumers need to look beyond the savings to make sure the deal is the right prescription for them.

Vera Hart takes the team approach to managing her medicines. Her partner, pharmacist Jena Ivey who works with seniors through the University of North Carolina School of Pharmacy, was a valuable resource when Vera heard about the four dollar generic drug offers. "For people without insurance or who don't have adequate coverage, it allows them to have better access to medications and better ability to afford medications," says Ivey.

Considering the average price of a generic prescription hovers around $28 dollars and brand name ones around $95 a cheaper, alternative looks promising.

But for people with insurance, it takes a little more digging. The first step, experts say, check the list. Pharmacist Stefanie Ferreri notes only about 10 % of the available generics are on the list. "The tricky thing about the list is they say it is over 300 drugs but if you really look at it it's only about 120 drugs or so," Ferreri says. That's because several of the drugs are listed more than once, at different doses. Ferreri also points out, the discount generics are mostly older ones which are already discounted by many plans.

According to Ferreri, "A lot of people are getting confused, because people see it as a great deal, but what most people don't realize is most people are probably getting that deal anyway."

Bottom line, do your homework. In the end, the bargain may not be right for you and may not be worth changing pharmacies.

Other factors to consider are the relationship with your pharmacist and extra services they may offer, like medicine delivery for people who can't drive. Experts say it is important to keep all of your prescriptions with one pharmacy. And, in case you are wondering, generic drugs are just as safe and effective as the brand names.