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Beware the Lure of Cheap Drugs

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Beware the Lure of Cheap Drugs

Prescription cards can oftentimes offer less than you assume

Do you take Crestor ($115) or Lipitor ($75) to lower your cholesterol? How about Plavix ($176) for your heart or Synthroid ($46) for your thyroid? Do you take Zoloft ($82) to counter your depression over how much your medications cost? (Prices averaged from Internet sources) As if paying for your prescriptions weren’t bad enough, now you need to keep up with an ever-growing amount of prescription drug card scams targeting you for their business.

That’s the warning Shannon McGlashan, office manager of White Cross Pharmacy in Sandpoint, would like to get out after one of her customers brought in a prescription drug card they had received in the mail.

“Generally, we’ve found the price the card issuer tells us to charge the customer often offers little or no savings. compared to walking off the street,” Shannon explained.

These cards are generally offered to someone whose name was obtained from a mailing list, and the recipient is told they’ve been offered the card because they’re a “preferred customer” of the institution who sold their name—many times, it’s their own bank, whose name seems to lend the prescription card some legitimacy. a significant monthly or annual “membership fee,” don’t always offer the financial benefit advertised.

That’s where your local pharmacist can come in handy. “Before someone signs up for one of these cards, they should check with their pharmacist to see if it offers them any financial benefit,” Shannon said. And oftentimes, a frank discussion about the cost of medications with your pharmacist can offer financial benefits you might not have been aware of.

“We’ve always been concerned (about drug prices),” said Shannon. “We see that customers with good prescription insurance coverage get decent prices, but the uninsured pay the equivalent of the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price. So we decided to change it.”

What she’s referring to is a discount program instituted at White Cross to help people cover the costs of their medications. Many pharmacies are doing the same.

“We formulated our discount program to offer the best possible price to all our uninsured customers.” The program, she said, favors generic medications, but each customer should ask for an evaluation of whatever medications they’re taking. “We can’t always offer the lowest price on every single medication,” said Shannon, “but what we’ve seen is that we can offer a dramatically lower price on some, resulting in an overall savings for our customers. It’s definitely worth shopping around,” she said, “when it comes to buying your medicines.”

Her final advice to those tempted by a seemingly promising prescription benefit? “Don’t pay to get a discount,” she said. “Find out first if you can get one without a charge.”

Or like your mama always told you: buyer beware.

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Landon Otis

Tagged as:

health, insurance, medicine, prescription drugs, drug cards

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