The Changing of the Guard: $4 Generic Presciptions at Wal-Mart and Target

Since I was three days old, I’ve taken Synthroid as a hormone replacement for hypothyroidism. I was very lucky – when I was born, hypothyroidisim was not a condition regularly tested for at my hospital and it was only diagnosed due to a very attentive pediatrician who had a hunch as to why I wasn’t thriving initially.

When I was growing up, the monthly cost of the prescription was a significant drain on my parents’ finances. They took it on as just another cost of having a child, but every month, year in and year out, it siphoned from the small amount of money that they had to work with.

When I was in college, I had a hard time keeping up with the cost of the prescription. It wasn’t incredibly expensive, but I was a broke student who didn’t know how to manage his money well and quite often I would be forced to scrounge for pocket money to pay for a prescription refill. Several times, I was saved by a kind doctor at my university’s student health services who would slip me a seven day sample pack or two to help me get through until I could afford a refill.

In my adult life, the $20 month in and month out cost for the prescription was just another bill on the pile, and along with my general lack of money management, it contributed to the continual money problems I faced before my financial meltdown.

Even in my life where I had access to plenty of money, the cost of Synthroid was a constant small drain on my finances. In the life of someone else without a strong income, such a prescription cost every single month can really be painful.

Synthroid has a generic equivalent, called levothyroxine. My doctor suggested several times that I could take it instead of Synthroid, because it essentially has the same effect. Doing so in the past wouldn’t have saved me or my parents any significant money.

Until now.

Last year, WalMart and Target both made a huge number of generic prescription drugs available for $4 each. You can read the full list of drugs made available by Wal-Mart and by Target.

This list contains levothyroxine, which I have begun taking. This move saves me $16 a month compared to my normal prescription cost.

This is an interesting deal for some, but it can be a life-altering deal for others. Take my grandmother, for instance. She’s now able to get three of her prescription medications from this list for $4, saving her about $75 a month compared to her old prescription bill. Given that she lives on a very small pension and Social Security, the $4 prescriptions have changed her life.

Aren’t there problems with generic drugs? Most of the supposed issues out there with generic drugs are the result of misinformation placed by the larger “name brand” drug companies. Look at Abbott Laboratories, for example, the makers of Synthroid. They put significant money into the marketing of Synthroid (like synthroid.com, for starters), even though it is basically just levothyroxine.

What should I do? If you take a name-brand prescription drug and pay a significant amount for it, you owe it to yourself to ask your doctor if there is a generic alternative to your drug of choice, and then ask him as well as the pharmacist if there are any drawbacks to the generics. In most cases, there are no drawbacks, but you should always consult medical professionals before making such a change.

Don’t let this opportunity go past, especially if you’re on a limited income. If you need a prescription drug of some sort that has a generic alternative, particularly one that is stretching (or breaking) your budget, take advantage of this. If you’re avoiding the doctor because you fear going on a prescription drug you can’t afford, take advantage of this. This is about more than your money, it’s about your life.

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66 thoughts on “The Changing of the Guard: $4 Generic Presciptions at Wal-Mart and Target

  1. Debbie says:

    When I insisted that my M.D. change one of my prescriptions the same basic generic drug, she wasn’t all that interested. When I insisted that she had to change because I was paying $89 every month out of my pocket because my health care insurance plan was not paying for it and Target sold the generic for $4, she wrote me the script. Turns out she didn’t know that $4 generic part so she said. But being that she also tried to convince me to get my generic synthroid through the Kaiser pharmacy for $12 month have to wonder what the real motivation is for Kaiser M.D.s.

    So I was paying $101 out of my pocket per month, I am now paying $8. Huge difference!

  2. David says:

    As a pharmacist I would like to echo what Trent said. It’s true that 99.9% of generics are just as good as their name brand counterparts. There isn’t any reason not to switch to generics. My only concern is with generic creams and ointments. It’s extremely difficult to reproduce a cream/ointment to the exact specifications of the brand name. That doesn’t mean they won’t work, but they may work differently than their name brand or not quite as well.

    I also want to say that these stores are still making a lot of money on these drugs. You can get a bottle of 1000 tablets of some generic drugs for a few dollars. So, this is still a money making opportunity for the stores. Walgreens and CVS most likely won’t follow the trend because it cost’s them between $6-8 to fill each prescription before the cost of the drug is factored in. They may jump on board with a few drugs but I doubt it.

    Always talk to your pharmacist or doctor if you have any questions or concerns about your medications!

  3. Mrs. Micah says:

    The problem with getting an antidepressant switched is that doctors really don’t like to mess with what works. And mine works. But at the same time, it’s hard to afford right now (we’ll see when we hear back from the insurance people). It costs around $100/month, which is just crazy.

  4. Generics should chemically be the same as the original. I have insurance with a co-pay the name brand costs me $45.46 per month. My pharmacists puts the original cost of $271.88 on my receipt. If I could get a generic it would be only $5. If it were an option, I would take it.

    Best Wishes,
    D4L

  5. Susan says:

    I always take generics without much thought if my doctor says it’s okay. i trust her judgment and in the past when I didn’t have very good prescription coverage, she gave me as many free samples of what I needed as I could carry.

    It’s my opinion our health care system is out of whack and I want to save as much as I can as long as it doesn’t compromise my health.

    http://www.theinnovativetraveler.com

  6. Ryan says:

    Debbie, have you seen Sicko? It’s a documentary about the American health care system and I thought it was pretty good. There’s quite a bit about Kaiser Permanente. A toddler had a fever of 104 so her mom took her to the nearest hospital. Kaiser wouldn’t pay for the antibiotics and emergency room stay and told her to take the girl to an “in network” hospital. The girl died at the Kaiser owned building.

  7. I want to set the record straight on the generic drugs for just a few bucks idea. It came from KMart. Yes, Kmart started this long before Wal-Mart or Target with $5 generic prescriptions and they get no credit for changing the way generics are sold. I just wanted to give props to KMart for this inovative idea.

    The other low cost health care opportunity is the new clinics that are going into Wal-Mart, Target, and lots of grocery stores. The prices are amazing.

  8. silver says:

    I’m confused as to how you wouldn’t have saved money by switching to generic before these $4 ones came around. When I looked up the price of 30 Levothyroxine 100mcg on cvs.com, even without insurance, it is $12.69. And even if your dosage made the full price of the generic be more than $20, most insurance has a cheaper copay for generic (if you pay $20 for brand name, it’s probably $10 for generic), so you’d pay either the price of the drug or the generic copay (whichever is cheaper).

    If you don’t have health insurance and need to take daily pills, talk to your doctor about it. When I was on anti-depressants but didn’t have insurance, I had my doctor write the prescription for the pills that were double the dose (I was taking 20mg, he wrote it for the 40mg pills) and I broke the pills in half. A month of the 40mg pills (which, broken in half, was really 2 months) was only $5 more than a month of the 20mg pills. He wouldn’t do it at first, until I explained that I didn’t have insurance, because if I had insurance and he did it, it would be insurance fraud.

  9. silver says:

    Oh, and apparently, some states don’t want people to get cheap drugs. From the bottom of the page of the list of drugs you can get for $4:
    “Due to state law in CA, CO, LA, MN, MT, PA, RI, TN, WI and WY, pricing on these drugs is higher than $4. Ask your Target Pharmacist for specific pricing.”

  10. lorax says:

    I’m all for generics and OTC meds too, especially those sold at deep discounts at Walmart, Target, and Costco. I use them myself.

    But there can be differences – the big brand name levothyroxine drugs, Synthroid and Levoxyl, should have very similar affects. But I’ve witnessed the difference.

    ‘ just sayin’ save money, but be cautious too.

  11. Him says:

    Generics do have an important difference than the generics – the FDA allows them to have only 80% bioequivalence to their brand name counterpart. For certain drugs that’s OK, but for others it is crucial that you get exactly what you’re supposed to get.

  12. RC says:

    One other thing to mention is to both ask your doctor if there is a generic equivalent, as well as research it yourself. I switched my insurance to a high deductible plan this year, so I pay the first $2500 out of my pocket. My wife has a monthly prescription which was costing us $30/mo. After some research on the internet, I found out Walmart has it for $9/mo, although it had a different generic name than I orignally found. There are often more than one generic equivalent, and it is not always easy to determine if they are the same by looking at Walmart’s list, but researching on the net can help you figure it out. One call to her doctor, and I am now saving $21/mo.

    http://www.thinkyourwaytowealth.com

  13. Him says:

    Err, to be more accurate I should have said that the drug formula could be withing 20-25% bioequivalence, meaning you could be getting 80-120% of the drug dose.

  14. KC says:

    This is good info to know if I ever start taking more prescriptions than I currently do. Right now I have a $10 co-pay at the drug store about a block from my house. Its worth it to me to pay the extra $6 and walk there, get immediate service and they even know my name. I’m not sure I would save $6 by the time I drove out to the suburbs to Target or Wal Mart, parked, walked inside, and waited in their long lines to get service. But if I were taking 3 or more scripts on that list I’d certainly consider it.

  15. caryn verell says:

    i am amazed at how many folks do not know about generics and how many folks refuse to get them due to their ignorance about generics. fortunatly for me i have really good insurance that has always paid for my prescriptions, but about a year ago i asked my pharmacist just what the actual cost was for my 11 prescriptions….wholly moley! talk about sticker shock!

  16. Kate says:

    On generics in general – The biggest risk is if the company creating the generics uses different inactive ingredients than the name brand. So, as Trent and others have said, it’s always a good idea to talk to your pharmacist and/or doctor about generics, especially if you have an drug allergies.

    On the $4.00 generics – The advertising can be a bit misleading. For example, most of the advertising says for a month’s worth with a little asterisk next to it because some of drugs with the $4.00 price are good for thirty pills only. So if you take 2 pills a day, you’re going to pay $8.00 (which is still a very good price). Also, ask your local pharmacy to meet the price, most of them will. This can save you longer trip to Wally Mart, etc, if you don’t have one close to you.

    One problem that many of our patients told us about is that even though they could get their generics cheaper on these new deals, name brand RX’s tended to cost a lot more than other places. We recommended that people taking multiple RX’s make a list and price them around, and to talk to your insurance company about their required co pays.

    As a funny side note, when Wal Mart announced it’s program, we had a gentleman come in and read our Pharmacist the riot act, demanding that we meet Wal Mart’s $4.00 price. We told him if he really wanted us to meet the price, we would, and he could start paying $4.00 for all his generics which he’d paying $2.00 for with us for years! Naturally he asked to keep his previous pricing. Heh.

  17. paidtwice says:

    I agree on the general concept that you should look for generics or lower-priced counterparts. We’ve saved money in the past doing so.

    The idea though, that for an average family or an average person, one $20 copay month in and month out is a make-or-break situation seems overdramatized to me. Speaking from my own experience growing up in a lower middle class family on a very expensive (for the time) allergy treatment (first pills, then shots, then when the shots didn’t work and almost landed me in the hospital, back to pills) when you have a chronic condition to deal with – the prescription cost becomes another monthly bill you expect and budget for. If you’re having trouble dealing with the idea of that, you’re probably having trouble with your other monthly bills as well, and that’s a symptom of a deeper issue.

    Not that I wouldn’t be happy to reduce monthly prescription costs – my spouse is on an asthma medication that does not yet come in generic form and we pay a $25 copay every month for it (and I’d be pleased to pay $4 instead) but for us – it is an expected expense we budget and plan for. We’re not surprised. We’d love to save on it, but it isn’t an act of desperation.

    I do agree that having generics available and being able to utilize them, especially for multi-prescription limited-income individuals, is excellent. The tone of desperation for one $20/month copay here just seemed over the top.

  18. Gayle RN says:

    If you have elderly people in your life print out these lists for them. Have them take them with them on dr. visits. The doctor should be able many times to choose something off the list that would do the job. Many docs are totally unaware of what prescription costs really are. My father’s cardiologist wrote a script for a beta blocker that was not on the VA formulary. When I pointed out that the significant cost differential essentially meant that he would not be filling that prescription he wrote for another beta blocker on the formulary. He had no idea that the cost was $300 versus $7.50 for a 90 day supply. He just would have labelled my father as noncompliant.

    On the other hand my husband attempted to switch to generic anti-seizure medication and quickly found out that it was indeed 20% lower in bioavailability, proven in his regular testing for blood levels. Also the fact that he started having seizures again on what was supposed to be the same dosage. We never again allowed generics for that diagnosis. It was not worth it.

    For myself, I found that going with an older generically available, statin (cholesterol lowering) drug worked very well for me as opposed to the non formulary, non generic available and highly advertised Lipitor.

    A regional chain in my area gives FREE antibiotics for children, which I think is quite admirable.

  19. Lisa Spinelli says:

    Theoretically, manufacturers of generic replacements of name brand drugs must undergo thorough FDA validation before distributing. They are under the same FDA auspices as the name brand manufacturing plants.

    Having said all that, I have also experienced differences when using Synthroid vs Levoxyl.

    Any one have any thoughts on that? One thing I have heard is that overseas manufacturing plants are not as closely monitored.

    Lisa

  20. Kate says:

    Lisa,
    Part of it is individual sensitivity to the inactive ingredients, and to composition. Many generics, while very close to the formula of a name brand, aren’t exact. Those variances, even though relatively minor, can pose problems for some people. There are even some people who do better on the generic version of some drugs for the same reason.

  21. Valerie says:

    I just wanted to share that some generic prescriptions which are not on the $4 list may be on a $9 list. For example my birth control pills (generic ortho-tricyclen) are $9.00 at Target. I had been paying a $10 copay with my previous insurance’s mail order pharmacy and I thought I had been getting a good deal! Before then I had been paying full price at CVS–about $33 a month. Now my prescrition plan has a $20 co pay on generics. So the out of pocket cost at Target is less than the co pay! Maybe Wal-Mart has something similar as well.

  22. SAB says:

    Him-

    This is what they teach us at pharmacy school: both brand and generic medications have the same standards for bioequivalence and potency. Each lot(batch) of medication has to be within 85-115% as potent as the next. In reality, they are generally within a few percentage points of each other. So generics vary from brand medications exactly as much as one batch of brand medication varies from another.

    Lisa-

    If you experience differences between different brand/generic forms of levothyroxine, then stick to one brand or generic all the time. It can be the cheapest one!

  23. riley says:

    It is a fact that many drugs are now being manufactured overseas, including more and more in China, and the FDA does not inspect those overseas manufacturing facilities, nor do they test the drugs themselves. There are been some stories in the national news lately of problems of quality and content with some drugs that are being manufactured in developing countries, including China.

    The manufacturing standards for drugs are very poorly enforced in the developing countries. If it were me I would try to find the country of origin on any generic drug before considering using that drug.

    I am sure many or even most generic drugs are fine and would have no hesitation trying them if I needed prescription drugs. But when switching from branded to generic drugs I would be very sure to watch for unexplained side effects.

  24. leslie says:

    Well, I too have Hypothyroidism and take Synthroid. When the generics first came out my doctor refused to allow the substitution. Eventually, when they had been out for a while she did allow the pharmacist to substitute. Great, right? Well, I had an allergic reaction to the generic (most likely one of the inactive ingredients). So, I am back on Sythroid again. At some point, I would like to try the generic again because it would save me about $11 a month over what my co-pay is for the sythroid.

  25. partgypsy says:

    It’s kind of a sad statement that Walmart (and Kmart) are more forward-thinking about making medications affordable than our own government. Now what was the Gov’s reasoning why this can’t be done again?

  26. David says:

    @riley

    Companies are not allow to produce drugs for consumption in the US unless they are produced at an FDA approved facility. It doesn’t matter where in the world they are located, they still have to get FDA approval. Any drug manufactured in a non-FDA approved facility is misbranded/adulterated under US law. The recent situation you are referring to in China revolved around drugs that were being made for people in China. Those facilities were not approved for producing US bound drugs. All that said, counterfeit drugs is a growing problem for the US, not bad drugs being produced in FDA facilities

  27. Looby says:

    It’s true that not enough people consider generics, be it for prescription or OTC drugs. I know so many people who only take tylenol not acetaminophen. On the other hand it is important to remember that generics will not always work for you. I have to take two prescription medications daily, only one of which I can take in generic form. The other still sadly costs over $100/month.

  28. Kim says:

    Silver: writing a prescription for a 40 mg. dose with the directions “take 1/2 tablet” is NOT insurance fraud. I am a Nurse Practitioner and in my clinical practice, this is very common and can result in big savings for the patient. There is nothing illegal or unethical about this at all.

    You might want to find a less-ignorant/lazy MD who is more concerned with YOUR pocketbook than his or her own.

  29. E.C. says:

    There’s a lot to be said for trimming expenses on medications if you can do so with no ill effects. My mom has been on thyroid medication since she was a teenager, and she’s been on the levothyroxine for as long as I can remember. I find it a bit odd that neither your doctor nor your insurance company suggested you try the generic before this.

    If there’s a generic equivalent available, it should be your first choice when you are prescribed a new medication. The situation can be a bit trickier when similar drugs are around in generics, but your exact medication isn’t. I’ve done some waffling on whether to switch under those circumstances.

  30. tabletoo says:

    I know someone who has taken throid meds for a long long time and has tried the generics but has decided to stay with the name brand for now. Here’s why:

    With thyroid medication you do have to work with your doctor and be very careful to get the exact right dose, especially if you are on a high dosage. The inactive ingredients can alter the absorbsion rate or otherwise affect the way that react to the drug or, as someone stated above, it may not have the exact percentage of active ingredient that the name drug has.

    That may be still be OK because you and your doctor can work on it and find the right dosage. THE PROBLEM is that when you refill your prescription you may get a DIFFERENT generic, made by a different manufacture with different inactive ingredients and you may not react exactly the same to the new drug and it will require re-adjusting the dose and so on. And the adjustment period can be uncomfortable.

    Thyroid medication is one of the more difficult ones to go generic on. But for most drugs it is a very good idea.

  31. Sara says:

    As an ER nurse, I also wanted to mention the antibiotic program that Meijer’s has. The 6 most commonly prescribed antibiotics prescribed for children are FREE at Meijer’s (with a script of course). They’re even free for adults! This program saved me about $50 in co-pays alone this summer!

  32. margo says:

    Our local Publix offers a list of very common generic antibiotics– amoxycillin, zythromycin, etc.– for free. Free.

  33. I just wish Singulair was on that list. That’s the ONLY thing that helps me with asthma.

  34. Chad says:

    It’s sad that Wal-Mart, Target, and K-Mart can drop the price to $4/5 and still make a profit. To hear that some of these medicines cost around $100 before, it amazes me that no one has sued to recoup overpriced medicines in the past. Think how much Trent’s family spent on these medicines, when back in the day they probably could have sold for $1/2. That makes me sick.

    Maybe the costs have gone down since we as Americans are consuming more medications that ever before?

  35. Jodi says:

    ‘m going to echo what a couple other posts sad. Thyroid medications are tricky and although you SHOULD try to switch to generic if you can, you WILL need to be monitored by your doctor to make sure that you body doesn’t absorb it different.

    Kroger and Giant Eagle also have 4 dollar prescriptions too.

  36. Jennifer says:

    It’s interesting to me that Abbott would pump their name brand medicine. They also are a huge manufacturer of generic drugs, and if you were to ask them about their generic drugs that they make, especially if they were the 1st generic drug to make it to the market after the patent has expired on the name brand drug, I’m certain Abbott would maintain that there generic was the equivalent. Generic drugs must also gain FDA approval and Abbott spends lots of $$ to be the first to market after the patent expires on some of the expensive drugs.

  37. silver says:

    @Kim
    My current insurance charges a $20 copay for a month of pills. So 30 20mg pills (taking one a day) and 15 40mg pills (taking 1/2 a day) would both be $20. If he wrote the prescription for 30 40mg pills (with “take 1 a day” as the dosage), knowing that he was telling me to take 1/2 a day, that would be insurance fraud. That’s what he was referring to. Once I told him that I didn’t have insurance, he was more than happy to write the prescription for the 40mg pills.

  38. Ed says:

    While I commend Wally World and Target (for matching WM’s pricing), they are still over charging on other medications to make up the difference. It costs an average of $7 in labor and overhead to fill each rx. If they are only charging $4, they have to make up the other $3 somewhere else, either on other drugs (only about 350 are on the $4 list when there are 1,500 generics) ex. Azithromycin 6pk at WM $36, Costco $22. Or other items in the store.
    Also, price what #100 pills are…at WM HCTZ 25MG #90 is $12 (3*$4) while it is under $6 at Costco, same with Atenolol and furosemide.

    Go to a pharmacy who has consitently lower prices on everything!

    The reason why the stores can’t sell $4 rx in some states, is because there is a law that does not allow pharmacies to sell medications below cost. This is to help the independant pharmacies when a big competitor (Wal-Mart) comes to town and sells everything at a loss till the mom and pop rx goes out of business then raises the prices. And yes WM and Target are selling SOME of the meds on their lists below cost.

    Examples of insurance fraud: writing ONE rx for mulitple family members to use, writing for a higher strength of medicine at one a day when verbally telling the patient to only take half (so they get 60 day supply on a 30 day copay) and writing “use as directed” on at item that again, is going to last longer that the 30 days that the insurance might limit.

  39. k12linux says:

    David, that makes me feel even better about taking the generic. The profits of counterfeit name-brand drugs are a lot bigger than counterfeit generics. Seems to me that the generics would be less likely to be counterfeit.

  40. Judy Gallegos says:

    I, like Lisa Spinelli, can definitely tell the difference in Synthroid and Levothyroxine. The first time I was prescribed the generic, I kept feeling sicker and sicker. Finally went to the doctor and he checked my thyroid levels and they were way too high. He put me back on name brand Synthroid and within a week I was feeling better. I mentioned this to the pharmacist. Up until then I had never met one who would say that generics were not exactly the same as name brand. He said that in most cases this was true, but not synthroid. This was about 10 years ago, and I have been told since then that they reformulated the generic, but I’m still afraid to take it. I remember how bad I felt before. A lot of generics don’t work for me (tylenol 3 is one), but at least they don’t make me deathly ill like Levothyroxine.
    Judy

  41. deRuiter says:

    How about a little more credit for WalMart and Target selling many generic drugs for $4.00? This is how American business the makes cost of living cheaper for all of us. These stores offer loss leaders to get customers into their stores. Target and Walmart (especially WalMart) sell many things cheaper than other stores, they make their money on volume (increasing their income) and cost cutting (decreasing their outgo.) THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT TRENT IS SAYING, that we should use both supply side and demand side economics to make ourselves financially prosperous!

  42. Eldavo says:

    Ed — regarding: [...]writing for a higher strength of medicine at one a day when verbally telling the patient to only take half (so they get 60 day supply on a 30 day copay)[...]

    I found this hard to believe when my employer recommended it as a great way to cut costs but after I called my insurance company, they assured me this is not insurance fraud. Can you site your source, please?

  43. Mitch says:

    Trent, Hy-Vee offers levothyroxine, as well as many other generic drugs, for $4 now as well. I know you shop there sometimes and you have a preference for local businesses, so I just thought you’d be interested to know since they’re an Iowa-based company.

  44. JE says:

    One thing that may seem obvious, but I sure didn’t realize for years: make sure that your insurance co-pay is actually cheaper than just paying for the drugs straight out. I obligingly handed over my insurance info at Target and was automatically billed for the co-pay every time I filled a prescription. It wasn’t until I was on vacation and had no insurance info on me that I paid for my medication straight out and discovered that it was far less than the co-pay I’d been paying for years. The poor woman at the pharmacy counter at Target got an earful when I got home and asked only to discover that it was less expensive there, too!

    @Judy Gallegos – Like someone said before, you have to be carefully monitored when switching thyroid meds. It may not be that you can’t take the generic; it may be that you need a different dosage for the generic (my dosage is different for Synthroid and the generic, and I feel fine on the generic now that the dosage is correct).

  45. Tim says:

    My wife takes Synthroid. We asked the doc about generics and he advised against it, on the grounds that generics, while required to be the same ingredients in the same propotions as the brand names, are only required by FDA regs to be within 80-125% bioequivalent. Brand names, by contrast are required to be within

    Meaning that you can get one generic scrip filled that is 80% equivalent to the brand name, and when you go back for your refill, if the pharmacy has changed the generic they’re filling your scrip with, you could get one with 125% potency of the brand name. That’s a HUGE difference when you’re talking about drugs that affect the levels of hormones in your system.

    I think that for many medications, cough medicines, antibiotics, pain killers, the generic options are fine, and will likely work just as well, but when it’s your brain chemistry or your body’s hormonal balances on the line, I wouldn’t chance it. Those are areas where you need to be confident that the treatment will be consistent over time.

    So my wife will stick to brand name Synthroid for her hypothyroidism, but we’ll continue to buy generic ibuprofen and cough medicine for the house.

    Good article, Trent. Keep up the interesting work.

  46. daydreamr says:

    One thing a lot of people don’t realize is that if you are low-income and have no insurance, drug companies will often give you medications for free. You can ask your doctor about these programs or look it up on the manufacturer’s web site. Of course the dr. has to fill out paperwork but they often send you a free 3 month supply.

    I was getting Klonopin thru this program but when I got insurance, I was switched to the generic form. I found that there is a HUGE difference between name brand and generic Klonopin. Since getting the name brand approved was too much BS, I had to switch to a less effective med that didn’t have the side effects of the generic.

    Also, (at least in my state), the pharmacists is required to dispense the generic equivalent if it is available. This has screwed me up before when being prescribed a “combination” med. They have dispensed a drug that only had 1 of the ingredients and got away with it (generic equivalent).

  47. Samantha Koutny says:

    I almost fell out of my chair when I read this. I too have congenital hypothryodism (diagnosed at birth not later in life) and had taken synthroid my whole life but was benefited by a navy father where prescriptions were free. I’ve met many why have hypothyrodism but not since birth. When I was married and my benefits were gone it was beyond scary to think that I wouldnt be able to get my medicine that I have to have, it’s not just a choice. My doctor finally told me about me the generic version of synthroid and i have to admit I was a bit of a label snob and didn’t want to do it but I had to. Theres absolutely no difference! Best thing is it keeps going down on prices. After my pregnancy I plan to go to Kmart who is starting to give 3 month supplies for $15 of generic versions rather than one month at a time for maybe $4. When you take medicine you have to have your whole life you try to stop going to the pharmacy. Thanks Trent for making yourself personable to me.

  48. GHH says:

    My wife (mid-50′s) has taken synthroid for around 10 years now. When she asked her doctor about using a less expensive generic equivalent, the doctor replied that with most prescriptions generic is ok… but, with hormonal drugs, such as synthroid, she recommended staying with the higher quality (her words) name brand. The dosage took a few months of tweaking and the extra few dollars a month ($8 co-pay for 30) is worth our peace of mind.

  49. Aryn says:

    The active ingredients in generics are the same, but the binders and inactive components can be very different. Anyone with food intolerances needs to be very careful with any medication, so check to confirm that a generic is still safe for you. Also, I’ve personally had bad experiences with some generics – they were effective, but my side effects were amplified significantly. I’ve also had good experiences with generics. It really depends on the medication.

  50. Barb Minton says:

    I’ve been on both and if yor body can handle it,go for it. KMart offers generics 90 days for $15 which saves me a dollar and I do not have to hassle with Wal=Mart. Their traffic flow situation is the pits.I used to get them by mail for $20;but this is even better.

  51. Barb Minton says:

    I’ve been on both and if your body can handle it,go for it. K Mart offers generics 90 days for $15 which saves me a dollar and I do not have to hassle with Wal-Mart. Their traffic flow situation is the pits.I used to get them by mail for $20;but this is even better.

  52. Jake says:

    As a pharmacist I have to chime in. Generics have to be equivalent to the brand and in most cases, they are. I would always recommend switching to generic when possible. In fact, in my state, it is the law for the pharamcist to switch any prescription to the generic unless the doctor or patient say otherwise.

    That being said, changing from Synthroid to generic levo is a little bit different because it involves taking blood levels. If you’ve had consistent thyroid levels on Synthroid, there may be a difference when switching so you’ll just want to monitor your levels more frequently when switching….

  53. Ed says:

    Eldavo-the source for the insurance fraud is your own insurance manual. If it states under prescriptions that your insurance pays for a 30 days supply per copay and you take lipitor 10mg once a day #30 is your monthly amount for $XX copay.
    If you go to your Doctor and say, Doc, this $45 copay for Lipitor is killing me, how about you write the script for 20mg, once a day #30 and but I will only take 1/2 per day just between you and me. That is insurance fraud because you are billing your insurance for #30 as a 30 day supply and actually getting 60 days for one copay.
    There have been insurance programs that A) FORCE you to get the higher strength and cut them in have to save money, but that is done as 20mg of lipitor #15, still a 30 day supply or B) the insurance has figured out that getting the generic Zocor for two months is less expensive than paying $5 per month for two months. Example 10mg of simvastatin #30 is $5 cash price, but #30 of 20mg is $5.50, so instead of the insured paying $5/month for two months it is less expensive to offer the insured #30 of the 20mg for $5 and a 60 day supply. This is usually only seen with a very cheap generic. This 2nd program may be what you have seen.

  54. Teresa says:

    Regarding generic Levothyroxine. Check with your insurance company’s formulary. Synthroid is the brand name, and my insurance company considers Levoxyl to be a generic of Synthroid, even though Levoxyl is actually a brand name for levothyroxine. Unithroid is also a brand name for levothyroxine, and can be considered a generic for Synthroid. So, for my cancer treatment, I have been advised to use one of the brand name drugs, as long as I am consistant from month to month.
    With a generic brand, I could be getting a different manufacturer’s generic every month, sending my TSH levels on a roller coaster ride. That is one roller coaster I don’t want to ride, thank you.
    My best advice, is actually read the information you get from your insurance company, and discuss with your doctor and pharmacist.

  55. jlawrence01 says:

    When Costco sells a drug for $4, they are a good corporate citizen. When Walmart does it, they are driving small pharmacies out of business. Not true.

    For my many prescriptions, WalMart about $600/yr cheaper than the local Costco and this pricing has remained fairly consistent the past three years.

  56. Ed says:

    jlawrence01- Costco doesn’t sell ANY prescription cash price for $4. They don’t believe in selling items below cost and/or driving the independent pharmacies out of business.
    They do sell an average of 3 months worth of a med for less than $4/mo though.

  57. Eldavo says:

    Ed – Believe me, I’ve read the plan literature, asked both the insurance company and my company’s HR rep because this seemed too good to be true to me and I didn’t want to be charged with committing a crime. The way they see it, my doctor would simply be writing a prescription and I would be refilling it no sooner than 30 days at a time. The fact that I would not be taking my medication as prescribed does not constitute fraud. It would just be a matter between me and my doctor.

  58. DireRed says:

    Fabulous tip! I’ve also used a thyroid supplement for over 10 years now, and although I often visit these stores, I didn’t know about the $4 deal. Fantastic! I just started new insurance (where the drug coverage wasn’t quite as good) and this will make a great difference!

  59. lucille says:

    The $4 scripts are a real life saver since we both take quite a few medications. In talking to the pharmacist at our local Target she said that they will price match other local pharmacies. This is potentially helpful if your getting a good deal on something somewhere else so you can still have your rx’s all filled at the same place.
    Another thing to remember if you do have insurance is to really look close at your coverage for prescriptions. We have new insurance and I found that some are actually cheaper at the pharmacy and others are much cheaper mail order. Blue Cross also has a nifty price checker feature that will alert you if a generic equivalent exists. I found out that one of the very expensive drugs (nasocort) we both take has a generic. The generic is actually the generic of Flonase but we have both used that before. So just switching that dropped us from $35 for 90 days to $10 for 90 days. Our retail copay would have been about $50 for 30 days so there can be some huge savings if you look.
    We also signed up for Target’s pharmacy reward program. They issue you a card that is tied to your regular checking account. You use that to swipe at Target and it runs your purchase as an e-check to your bank. For every 10 prescriptions you fill they give you a 10% off everything shopping day coupon.
    BTW, I take synthroid also. My doctor is very big on not using generics for thyroid. Luckily we can get it fairly cheap due to the relatively lower retail price and our percentage copay.

  60. Jason says:

    $4 drugs are spreading further. Just recently, Sweetbay Supermarkets started selling a list of over 400 generics for $4 for 30 days and $10.99 for a 90 days supply. It’s available to anyone, with or without insurace. Generic Zocor and Zoloft are on that list.

    Despite Wal-Mart’s increase in pharmacy business, they are making much less on 40% of their prescriptions. On 40% of their drugs, they are making about a $2 gross profit ($4 list) and the other 60% they are making an $11 gross profit. So, this gives them a gross profit in the $7/prescription range, which is about what it costs them to dispense a medication. That means, at this point, the pharmacy component is barely breaking even (not counting OTC’s, of course).

  61. Irina says:

    I know that this discount prescription card (Luscinia Health Discount card) http://www.lusciniahealth.com/card.aspx. works. You can call them and they will quote you the price for your particular medication. Their card program is free to join.

    Also, if you you are in Florida or have relatives in Florida who are uninsured or under-insured, we have Florida prescription card for under-insured at http://www.FloridaRxCard.com
    that allows for significant savings. It is a brand new program, I think launched less than a year ago.

  62. The style of writing is quite familiar to me. Have you written guest posts for other blogs?

  63. ChrisD says:

    Manufacturing drugs is pretty cheap. The high prices of drugs is for drugs that have been patented and must cover not only the R&D costs for that drug, but the 10,000 compounds that initially showed some promise, the 10 phase 1 clinical trials, the 5 phase II clinical trials and the 3 phase III clinical trials that are needed to produce ONE drug that is safe and which works (numbers are approximate). The company has 50 years to recoup these costs (though practically it has less time as the drug-to-be must be patented at the start of the testing process).
    Once the patent has expired the drug is essentially free. Notice that AIDS drugs cost ~$100 a day but are given to the third world at cost price which is $1 a day (and still beyond most people’s budgets). And likewise paracetamol (acetominopharm) costs about £1.50 for 24 tablets (~3 days worth for constant pain, ~1 years worth for normal life).
    Brand name drugs with expired patents being charged at high prices is essentially a con.
    Of course this picture is taking a somewhat rosy view of the big pharma as they don’t do all that much R&D and apparently advertising has double the budget R&D does. Basically the health services/insurances have to get tougher about negotiating prices with big pharma.

    In the UK we pay a single fixed prescription charge (but in most cases you get more than 30 days). We don’t pay the real cost of the medication (directly).

  64. mary says:

    Regarding #64 “the company has 50 yrs to recoup this cost” In the US the patent life is 17 yrs (that’s what we were told in pharmacy school)unless this has changed without my notice!
    Also, regarding the $4 generics, I don’t work retail,but my husband works in a chain and he was told the reason Walmart and Meijer can offer $4 generics is that their RX departments are loss leaders (only generate 400 rxs/a day so instead of waiting an average of 15-20min in a smaller chain or independent( spending money locally),you wait forever!
    The higher the rx volume,the higher the errors and rudeness-just something to think about.
    Also, don’t try to save a few dollars and get 1 rx at 1 store and another rx at another store. Contrary to what some people think, all drugstore computers are not linked so drug interactions can happen if you don’t get all your rxs in 1 place. An ER visit costs a lot more than what you can save by spreading your rxs all over town!

  65. Sherry says:

    I just went to Target Pharmacy for the first time. I had two prescriptions. One for Ambien and one for Estradiol. I had two prescriptions from my doctor for 90 pills each. I refill every three months. I received 30 pills for each instead. I get Zolpidem, generic for Ambien and estradiol is also generic. I paid $10 each for only 30 day supply. At CVS I received 90 day supply for $20 each. They are both generic and I didn’t get the $4 your supposed to pay for generic plus I didn’t even get the free $10 gift card for first time customers to their pharmacy. They asked me if I wanted auto fill and I am so glad I said no. I read another Target customer complaint earlier that said once you accept auto fill, its really hard to opt out of. I will never go to Target again. Not only do they cheat you out of generic prices, their prices are higher than any other pharmacy that I know of. Never again.

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