NCPA: Patients Can Save 90 Percent On Some Drug Costs

NCPA Study Provides Checklist for Consumers to Significantly Cut Drug Costs

DALLAS (June 24, 2003) -- As Congress and many state legislatures debate ways to lower the cost of prescription drugs, a new study from the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) shows that patients can save more than 90 percent on some of the most common drug therapies by becoming smarter, more aggressive shoppers.

"Patients should shop for drugs the same way they shop for bread," said Devon Herrick, NCPA research manager and author of the study. "If you're not comparing prices, odds are you are paying too much."

The study notes that the rise of the Internet has provided consumers with an invaluable cost containment tool. Consumers can find a range of prices from several Internet pharmacies, both for brand medications and generics. They can also learn about state government and private programs that assist seniors and low-income patients, as well as discount programs arranged by drug companies.

"Seniors will do better talking with their doctor than to members of Congress," said Herrick. "When your doctor prescribes a medication, you should ask if there is a cheaper alternative. Often there is."

According to the study, smart shopping can save a lot. For example:

  • The price of 100 (50mg) doses of the cardiovascular drug Tenormin ranged from $121.90 at to $100.77 if purchased from AARP; a savings of about 17 percent.
  • If patients switched to Atenolol, a common generic alternative, they could save at least 75 percent more.
  • The price of 100 (50mg) does of Atenolol ranged from $25.33 at to $9.60 at
  • Patients can lower their costs another 30 percent (from $9.60 to $6.75) by buying larger pills (100mg) and splitting them in half.
  • In total, the potential savings is 94 percent ($121.90 reduced to $6.75).

These types of savings are common, as drug prices vary considerably from pharmacy to pharmacy. Additionally, many medications cost the same, regardless of the size (dose) of the pill. Patients can save anywhere between 30 to 50 percent by purchasing double the dosage and splitting pills in half. "Pharmacies will do it for you, or you can buy pill splitters cheaply," said Herrick.


Options for Saving Money on a Brand-Name Drug

  • Check on government programs to assist low-income and/or elderly patients with drug costs in the state where you live (see also
  • Check on the drug manufacturer's programs to assist low-income and/or elderly patients with drug costs (see also
  • Compare prices in your locality.
  • Compare prices over the Internet, but exercise caution to ensure that any Internet-based drug supplier is reputable and aware of the full range of medications taken to prevent dispensing drugs with contraindications or adverse interactions.
  • Consider splitting pills, if practical.

Options for Saving Money through Drug Substitution

  • Look for a less expensive, competing branded drug with the same therapeutic benefits.
  • Look for a generic drug.
  • Look for an over-the-counter (OTC) drug with therapeutic benefits.
  • In all cases, compare prices locally.
  • Compare prices over the Internet.
  • Consider buying in larger quantity and, when practical, pill splitting.