How you can save money on prescription drugs

HOUSTON – At 63-years-old, Belinda Shae Schultz of Cypress is a hardworking mother and grandmother who has Type 1 diabetes and requires regular doses of insulin every day.

“I have to have it. I would end up in intensive care ... I have done that several times when I didn’t take my drug and once I wound up in a coma for a week,” Schultz said.

With nothing short of her life on the line, Schultz must take her medication or die.

But with the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs, there have been times when Schultz just could not afford her lifesaving medication.

There were times when she was between jobs and had no insurance and had to pay the full cash price for insulin.

So, she did what she had to do to stay alive.

“I had no choice. I went out to Canada and I found that I could buy a $240 vial of insulin for $80. The very same drug. The same name, same box, same thing, and I could buy it for a fourth of the price. It saved my life,”  Schultz said.

Drug prices are rising.

In fact, in the first week of 2019, 60 different drug manufacturers raised the prices on a total of 286 prescription drugs.

Why does this continue to happen?

“The main thing is, there is no price regulation in the drug industry whatsoever. So these companies can set whatever prices they see fit. There is nothing to stop them,” said Shawn Fry, president of Prevalent Health, a company that provides analytics and consulting to dozens and dozens of hospital systems.

Now, to save you and your family potentially thousands of dollars on prescription drug costs, we at Channel 2 Investigates are teaming up with Shawn and several other experts on prescription drug pricing to show you four different discount drug websites that promise to save you up to 80 percent on your prescriptions.

First up, it’s Refillwise.com, started right here in Houston by Ed Thomas and his two sons Steve and Paul, the site offers you a discount drug card that you get for free with a click of a button on your computer or smartphone.

Print out the card or save it on your phone, take it to your pharmacy and show it to the pharmacist and save.

“It’s ironic. When we first started, the majority of our customers were uninsured and today the bulk of our members have health insurance, but they have gaps in that insurance, higher copays,” Steve Thomas said.

Next up, it’s GoodRX.com, another discount drug website known for its simplicity and ease of use.

“Here at the GoodRX site you just enter the name of the drug you want. Punch in your ZIP code and a whole list of nearby pharmacies pop up along with the prices for that drug. And we find the lowest price listed at the top of the page,” Fry said.

It’s that easy, you just pick the price you want, print the coupon offered and take that coupon to the pharmacy you selected to save.

GoodRX also shows you the average price for that drug across the board so you know exactly how much you are saving with that coupon.

Next we go to Retailmenot.com and select the RXsavings button.

Fry explained how it works.

“You just type in the name of the drug. It will show you the local pharmacies and here we see the difference in price of anywhere from $10.95 at your local Kroger Store to $42.53 at your local Walgreens. That’s a four times difference in price. Invest 30 seconds of your time and you can save a sizable amount of cash,” Fry said.

And finally we go to Blinkhealth.com.

Here Fry punched in the drug we are looking for, and boom, the lowest price appears at the top -- and often times with Blinkhealth, the lowest price includes free delivery to your doorstep.

“The price here is actually less than what you would pay if you actually drove to the pharmacy and they are delivering it to you for free,” Fry said.

So what does Fry think of the innovative websites? Do they really deliver?

“Listen, I have bought millions of dollars’ worth of drugs through different hospitals and the prices on these websites are far lower than what I have seen before, in a hospital, in a drug store. I mean this is a tremendous advantage for the consumer. I am very surprised at these prices,” Fry said.