How You Can Cut Drug Costs

What you don’t know about what you take could be costing you a fortune.

The Wall Street Journal today outlined a pharmaceutical industry practice of combining generic drugs intpillso a single table, putting a brand name on the combination, and then marketing it as a “new” drug at a high price.  If you know what the active ingredients are, and they are generic, you can get them at low or no cost.

Every medication consists of active ingredients (the items that treat whatever condition you have) and inactive ingredients that give the medication its shape and consistency.  You don’t care about the inactive ingredients.  The FDA limits what can be used and the inactive ingredients don’t do anything in your body.

The article cites the example of a migraine drug, Treximet.  Without insurance, the drug has a cost of $728.67 per pack of 9 pills.  The active ingredients in Treximet are sumatriptan and naproxen, both of which are available in generic form.  Many pharmacies make generics such as these available for a cost of less than $10 or free.

So in this example, you are paying $700 (or whatever your deductible and copay is with insurance) for the privilege of taking one pill instead of two.  Really.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got better ways to spend $700.

(If you haven’t already received one, you can get a discount card for free from  In my personal experience, that can be helpful, plus their site allows you to compare costs for drugs at different pharmacies.  There are probably other services like that, but that’s the one I know best.)

The article by Brandeisky lists other methods for cutting prescription costs. It’s good to review this.

Bottom line:  you need to set aside time for a serious talk with your pharmacist about what you’re taking and how substitutions could reduce your costs.  If your pharmacist won’t give you his time for this or simply doesn’t know, change pharmacies.

You have the power to fight back against absurd drug pricing and same yourself a lot of money in the process.



  1. Brandeisky, Kara, “13 Smart Ways to Save on Prescription Drugs,” Money, 29 February 2016.
  2. Roland, Denise, “Patients find ways to cut drug costs,”  The Wall Street Journal, 31 October 2016, p. B1.

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