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FOX Medical Team

Prescription drug cards can save you money

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Most people don't think about using coupons for prescription drugs, but three out of every four trips to the doctor result in a prescription and those costs add up.

Most of us know that the tiniest pills can come at a mighty big price. If you don't have insurance coverage, one easy way to save money is by signing up for a prescription drug discount card.

Many are free. Others come with memberships.
                
"If you are a member of AARP or AAA motor club, you may already have one in your pocket and not even realize it," said Edgar Dwarski of ConsumerWorld.org.

Dwarski put five different cards to the test.

"Generic Lipitor, 30 tablets,the full price was $109. When you use one of the five cards on our survey you only pay between $46 and $60. That's 40 percent to 60 percent less, because you had a piece of paper and you got the discount right away," said Dwarski.

In this experiment,  AARP and AAA's cards beat the others, but savings aren't always substantial.

"In our survey, the average savings was 16 percent," said Dwarski.

"For the elderly and people who are on very low incomes, 3 and 5 dollars savings on even low cost prescriptions is a lot of money," said Jay Wolfson of the University of South Florida.
 
A recent Consumer Reports survey finds nearly 87 percent of patients surveyed don't have drug coverage; nearly half skipped filling a prescription because of cost.

Discount cards can help, but the University of South Florida's Jay Wolfson believes there's a trade-off.
                
"Since you are using their card for prescriptions, they now have profiles on your pharmaceutical use," said Wolfson. "These cards serve as a vehicle for other products and services to come to you from social marketing."

Experts say  ask questions before signing up.

"Every card has a separate set of discounts, one card might be good on one drug... another card might be good on yet a different drug.  You unfortunately have to get a couple of them, and a friendly pharmacist, who is willing to price them out with each card," said Dwarski.

Shopping around for the best price could pay off in big savings.

If you don't have drug coverage, there are still some ways you can save money.

First: comparison shop at several pharmacies using several different discount cards.

Next: check your memberships, such as AA or AARP. Many times you have access to discounts and don't even know it.

Finally, ask questions about information sharing and whether signing up for a card and using it will put you on a marketing list.

A couple other options: big drug stores give discounts if you pay a fee to join their prescription club. Other stores offer free and discounted generics.

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