Save On Meds With A Simple Question

Pay less for drugs by asking your doctor if there’s an older pill that works the same.

    “If there is no generic version of a brand-name drug you’re taking, ask your doctor about a therapeutic substitute or an older drug in the same category. A drug that has been on the market for more than 10 years will almost always have a generic version available.”

This is also a good idea if you’re one of those kooky people who don’t like to be part of the wide-release guinea pig project. Cup o’ Vioxx, anyone? — BEN POPKEN

50 Ways to cut your health-care costs [Money via FreeMoneyFinance]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Falconfire says:

    I wouldnt really advise this for all people. Despite claims to the contrary generics are not always EXACTLY the same as the name brands. My girlfriends father takes pills for his blood preasure and sometimes he get wacky reactions (happened once while he was still getting over his heart attack, and once aa few months ago)

    turns out they switched his pills to a generic version, and he had a adverse reaction which cause his bloodpreasure to become unstable. Now he has to specify that it HAS to be the original pills and take them back whenever they give him generic.

  2. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    I’ve already had this little talk with my doctor. We switched health plans at work and Harvard Pilgrim whacks you with a $50 copay on “non-preferred brands.” Now arguably, that’s not much if it’s the only medication available and it’s keeping you alive, but it is a lot if the doctor writes you a few non-critical prescriptions for minor chronic ailments and suddenly it’s $250 a month just for copays.

    I asked the doctor if he could try to put me on generic or “preferred” meds and he was absolutely fine with it. Quite often, doctors prescribe the latest and greatest drug without thinking about the ramifications of cost. Of course, if the whole medical system weren’t a giant money racket, we wouldn’t have this issue and ideally doctors should be able to just treat you without carrying an adding machine around with them.

    That said, of course, saving $40 a month on a prescription and then dying because you were too cheap to fork over the money for the right pills isn’t much of a savings, but again, for non life-threatening disorders, I don’t want to be emptying my meager checking account to feed the huge HMOs and drug companies if I don’t have to.

    As far as generics being identical to formulated brands, my understanding is that they are supposed to be exactly the same, so I can’t account for Falconfire‘s experience. Do we have any doctors in the house that can clarify that issue?

  3. Falconfire says:

    No your right they are supposed to be exactly the same in terms of active ingredients, but they are not exactly the same in terms of inactive, which is what causes most reactions to them.

  4. facted says:

    I can offer some semi-professional advice being that I’m in med school right now. Generics contain the same exact active ingredient although the inactive ingredient may be different (as falconfire says). In addition, the pill may not necessarily have the same properities in terms of duration of action, time to action, etc… because a lot of that depends on the inactive ingredients and in fact, companies don’t need to prove that these properties are the same when they put the drug on the market.

    However, will all that being said, the vast majority of the time, generics are the same exact medications for a fraction of the price. If you do try a generic and you have a reaction, often it’s unrelated, and if it is a prolonged reaction, you can often try another generic as there is generally competition for the same drug. You can also try different drugs in the same class (and their generics), which are often, though not always very similar.

    As always, talk to your doctor about the options, but you should definitely ask for the generics if you’re interesting in saving money and getting the same effect of the drug.

  5. ElizabethD says:

    My RI Blue Cross charges me the highest copay ($45) for the Zyrtec I take daily, year-round, for allergies. BC claims I can take OTC Claritin instead. I tried the Claritin for three weeks. My skin continuously broke out in hives (Zyrtec is known to be effective for allergenic skin reactions), and my ears began to have that “full” feeling that I get when allergies cause long-term congestion.

    So now I cough up (ha ha) my $45 each month for the Zyrtec. I can afford it, but it ticks me off. And what about the people who can’t afford the patented brand and end up with meds that don’t quite do the job for them? Bah, humbug!

  6. facted says:

    Although this is an example of medicines in the same class that don’t have exactly the same effects, it’s not a generic vs. prescription brand. Zyrtec and Claritin are actually two different compounds.

    It certainly is possible that people can have different reactions to two different medications that are similar though not the same.

  7. “Despite claims to the contrary generics are not always EXACTLY the same as the name brands.”

    Falconfire, there’s a range of tolerance (on all ingredients, active and inactive) for it to be labeled and marketed as the generic version of “X.” I want to say it’s 5% for active ingredients, but it might be less.

    I personally have never had any problem with generic vs. name (apparently I am just a big lunk), but I do know a few people who went on generic Prozac and their depression came totally uncontrolled until they went back on the name brand.

    Of course, for some people it works the other direction — their body likes the slightly different formulation of the generic better.

    It also seems to make a bigger difference with drugs for chronic conditions — heartburn, cholesterol, depression — than with drugs for acute conditions, like antibiotics. But that’s just a personal observation based on the complaints of people I know. :)

  8. facted says:


    You are right about there being a tolerance on the active ingredient, but that is specifically for the thereputic equivalence (and it has to be within 20% of the original drug, in either direction).

    In theory, there should be no difference for chronic drugs vs. acute drugs, although people won’t notice a difference for “acute” drugs since theoretically they weren’t just taking another drug they can compare to. For a chronic drug, if you were always taking the generic drug, you’d also likely feel a difference if you all of a sudden started on the brand name.

    In short, however, if your doctor recommends the generic, you should give it a shot (and likely longer than a week so you can get over any changes that you may attribute to side-effects). Drug companies want people to believe that brand name drugs are better in some capacity, but many studies have shown that in the majority of cases they are not. The cases where you have to be more careful are specfically when drugs have a very narrow therepeutic window which is the concentration that the drug needs to achieve in your body. Too high = lots of side-effects and too low = inactivity of the drug.

  9. dman081 says:

    I hear you on the Zyrtec. Blue cross hounded me for prior approval before they’d let me have it. In my book my doctor IS my prior approval…if he says I need it, I need it.

    I recently switched to Allegra from Zyrtec since allegra has a generic. Mistake. The generic has the worst tasting coating. Gives me heartburn and foul tasting burps. I’d much rather pay for brand name. Although, I agree with the article. I will always try the cheaper version. I just won’t get the 60 day mail order supply on my first try next time.