NATIONAL (CONSUMER REPORTS) - Nearly half of American adults take at least one prescription drug. And those prescriptions don't come cheap. One third of low income seniors spend at least $100 a month on medications. But there is a way to find quality medicines for less.
Susannah Dodson and her husband, John, both have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Between them, they take at least a dozen prescription medications every day and more when allergies, arthritis, or back pain flares up.
"Last year we spent approximately three thousand dollars in prescription drugs," said Susannah Dodson. "That doesn't count the insurance costs for Medicare or for our drug prescription program."
The Dodsons would be paying even more if they hadn't used Consumer Reports' free online service, Best Buy Drugs.
Consumer Reports Health Editor, Ronni Sandroff, says the site now has recommendations for 35 conditions, including asthma and insomnia.
"We work with a team of medical researchers to identify prescription drugs that are safe, effective, and available at a lower cost."
The savings can be substantial. For high cholesterol, instead of Lipitor at $98 a month, Best Buy Drugs says Lovastatin at $34 would be a better choice for many people. That's a savings of nearly $800 a year.
For Type 2 diabetes, instead of Actos for $151 a month, Best Buy Drugs recommends starting with Metformin, an older medication that costs $42, for a savings of more than $1,300 a year.
Ronni Sandroff says, "Often older drugs are as good or even better than newer drugs. They've been taken by millions of people, so usually we have a better idea of their long-term safety."
As for the Dodsons, after they consulted Best Buy Drugs, their doctor agreed it made sense to switch to a less expensive, generic drug for one of their medications.
Consumer Reports says if your doctor offers free samples of a prescription drug, you should be wary.
Those free samples usually come from the drug companies to promote their newest brand-name drugs.
You would probably be better off checking with your doctor to see if there might be another choice that's better or less expensive.