HOUSTON – Many people don’t realize the cost of medication can vary dramatically depending on how you pay and which pharmacy you visit.
Even more confusing is that using medical insurance doesn’t always get you the best price. There is another way.
“This is an amazing app where (it) doesn’t ask you (for your) insurance information," said Dr. Joan Crawford, of Ascension Macomb-Oakland Hospital in Warren, Mich. “You don’t have to put in a Social Security number. It doesn’t matter if you have insurance or if you don’t have insurance.”
Crawford is a big fan of GoodRx and routinely shows her patients how it works.
“I see so many people that are only allowed to spend so much money a year on medicine," she said. “So, the famous fall donut hole. People can’t afford their medicines.”
GoodRx can help change that.
“It’s just a way to get medicine cheaper,” Crawford said.
How it works
Ready to learn more? You download the GoodRx app or go to their website and enter your exact medication, dose and quantity. GoodRx searches the prices at pharmacies near you and lists them from lowest to highest.
In one example, the cholesterol medication Lipitor would be free at Meijer. If, somehow, “free” isn’t a good enough deal, or, you don’t want to go to Meijer, the next best price is $8.25 at Sav-Mor Pharmacy. Just tap the coupon price on the list and a coupon is generated that you show the pharmacist on your phone.
It really is that simple. Even if you have insurance, this price may be less expensive than your copay. And if you don’t have insurance, there’s a very good chance that the coupon discount GoodRx negotiated will be a better deal.
Another example: Doxycycline, a common antibiotic, is $11.68 with the GoodRx coupon at three pharmacies, but $16.50 at another. All of those are still less than the $20 copay it would cost one reporter when using insurance.
Or take a look at Lisinopril, a common blood pressure medication. The prices on the app for a one-month supply are all lower than many copays.
If you don’t want to visit multiple pharmacies to get the best price for each drug, there is a feature that allows you to enter all of your medications and get them filled at one pharmacy. It will show you where the best price is for the bundle of medications.
There are some limitations. Not every pharmacy is part of the app’s database, although most of the larger ones are. And GoodRx is less effective at lowering prices for medications that treat rare diseases, although it’s still worth checking on those.
While the prices on common drugs may seem too good to be true, they're not.
Crawford said GoodRx is so effective that most of the employees at her own practice are now using the app for their own prescriptions.
"All you have to do is plug in a few of your medications and you can decide for yourself what's cheaper and where you prefer to shop for your medicine," she said.
The cash option
Whether you take medications routinely or just a prescription every once in a while, it couldn’t hurt to download the app or check out the GoodRx website and see if it could save you money.
Even if you don’t use GoodRx, you should always ask the pharmacist how much it would cost if you paid cash for your prescription, instead of using your insurance.
There are many cases where the cash price is a better deal, but you usually need to ask the pharmacist to get that information.