Shopping for Drugs: 2007

Policy Reports | Health

No. 293
Thursday, November 16, 2006
by Devon Herrick, Ph.D.


Checklist for Saving Money on Drugs

Americans spent nearly one-quarter of a trillion dollars on prescription medicines and over-the-counter (OTC) drug remedies in 2005.1  Drug spending is expected to continue growing at a rate greater than inflation.2  Americans see their doctors more than 890 million times each year, and two-thirds of office visits to physicians result in prescription drug therapy.3  Overall, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores estimates that 3.38 billion retail prescriptions were written in 2005.4  The average cost of those prescriptions was $64.86.5 

"Patients can save money on their drug bills by smart shopping."

However, most patients can easily lower their drug bills by employing some or all of the strategies detailed in this report. To do so, they must treat drug purchases as they would treat any other prospective purchases - by shopping and comparing prices.  [For tips on smart shopping, see the nearby "Checklist for Saving Money on Drugs."]

Warning No. 1:   Some of the techniques described below involve buying drugs from a variety of sources.  While this may cut costs, there is a danger.  Doctors, pharmacists and other health and medical professionals are trained to recognize dangerous interactions among drugs.  Many of these professionals use software that performs this function automatically.  Therefore, patients who purchase drugs from more than one source should consult their doctor or pharmacist to ensure that the drugs they take will not interact in harmful ways. 

Warning No. 2:  When shopping for drugs on the Internet, patients should stick with trusted vendors.  Some Web sites that claim to be Canadian, for example, are actually based in other countries.  In addition, drugs offered via e-mail may be adulterated, expired or contain no medication.  And there is no guarantee that consumers will receive shipments for which they have paid. 

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