How to Compare Drug Prices Online

One way to save money on prescription drug purchases is to compare pricing from one pharmacy to another.  Whether you are uninsured, don't have prescription drug coverage, or may be approaching the Medicare doughnut hole, comparing prices among drug stores online makes sense.

But there is more to this than just knowing which drug store charges how much for the drug ​you need. Here is some advice for getting your medication and saving money, too.

1
Determine Whether There Is a Generic Version of Your Drug Available

Generic drugs can save you a lot of money.
Generic drugs can save you a lot of money on your drug purchase. Getty Images - Tom Grill

A generic drug is bio identical (from the same class of drugs) to a brand name drug. It will help you in the same way as a more expensive branded drug, for a fraction of the cost. Once past the period where the manufacturer of a drug is restricted to the original patent holder, other companies can make the same drug. Ask your doctor whether there is a generic version of your drug available. As the inactive components of the medication may be different, your doctor may monitor your condition after switching to the generic to ensure it is having the same effect.

2
Determine How Your Drug Is Listed in Your Payer's Formulary

check your drug's formulary tier
Your drug's pricing tier will make a big difference in what you insurer expects you to pay if you decide to use your insurance. Getty Images - Terry Vine

Become familiar with your insurance company or payer's drug formulary. The formulary is a list of drugs and their co-pays. You might be able to save money by finding out which other drugs (from the same class of drugs) are on lower tiers, meaning they are less expensive. The reasons for the different costs and whether or not a drug is included on the formulary have to do with whether over-the-counter or generic versions are available and whether the insurer has negotiated a lower cost with the manufacturer. You can work with your doctor to determine which drug will work the best but cost the least for you.

3
Be Aware of Legal and Safety Considerations for Ordering from Online Pharmacies

Rogue foreign online pharmacies advertise great prices, but you can't trust that the medication you receive is of the correct strength and quality. To order prescription drugs online safely and legally, check the VIPPS-Accredited Pharmacies List from the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. These online pharmacies are certified as operating legally and ethically and with your privacy and safety in mind. Many of the approved pharmacies are websites of pharmacies in your area that are members of national chains. Your costs may be the same as when you go to their pharmacies in person. But some may have lower prices when you compare them and many provide comparison tools to other pharmacies on their websites.

Keep in mind that if you use rogue sites you risk not getting the right medications, identity theft, and fraudulent charges. There are also legal and health risks in purchasing your drugs from foreign pharmacies.

4
Access Drug Price Comparison Websites

Comparing drug pricing
Compare prices - including the cost of shipping. Getty Images - Jamie Grill

Once you have determined what your options are among generics, lower-tiered, or branded drugs, these websites can help you determine their costs:

  • Pharmacy Checker: This site will compare prices for online and overseas pharmacies as well as local pharmacies. Their approved online pharmacy rating system checks whether the pharmacy is licensed, a prescription is required, and proper protection is given for personal information and financial transactions. They have operated since 2003.
  • Good Rx: This site checks prices from over 60,000 U.S. pharmacies and allows you to print out coupons you can take to your pharmacist. They also have a free app for iOS and Android.
  • You may also want to check for local and national chain pharmacies offering free or low-cost drugs.

5
Be Sure to Include Shipping Costs

When making cost comparisons, don't forget to include the cost of shipping.  While the price on one website might seem lower, shipping charges might make the drug much more expensive.

Continue Reading