How to find your prescription medications for less

News 6 investigates prescription drug savings programs, apps

By Adrianna Iwasinski - Investigative Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - The price of prescription medications has put a squeeze on families nationwide. 

Many get sticker shock when they go to the pharmacy pickup window and either begrudgingly pay the price, or just leave without taking the medication their doctor prescribed.

Not taking that medicine could lead to deadly consequences.

On Monday, a teacher in Weatherford, Texas, died of complications from the flu. Her family reported that she did not pick up her flu medication because of the cost. By the time her husband picked it up and she started taking it, it was too late and her body had already become septic.

"That's just unacceptable," Doug Hirsch, the co-founder of GoodRx, said about the cost many are paying for Tamiflu, an antiviral medication that is used to treat the flu. "The average person, even if you have insurance, is paying well over $100, and that's just too much."

Hirsch said he established GoodRx because of his own experience with high prescription drug prices. 

"I had a prescription from the doctor that they wanted $400 for," Hirsch said. "I thought that was too much." 

GoodRx boasts that it can find the lowest local prices for your prescriptions. It provides a list of pharmacies near you and an estimate of what they are charging for the drug. 

"With GoodRx, it’s amazing how many drugs you can find for less than $10," Hirsch said. "Even if you have a $10 copay, we can often beat that."

Hirsch said that, while GoodRx was created to help those who don't have any sort of insurance coverage, most people who use it do have insurance.

"The problem is that most Americans are underinsured," Hirsch said. "You either have a deductible, or insurance is saying, 'You can't fill that,' or there's some other reason why you are paying simply too much."

News 6 checked the prices in the Orlando area on three medications: Tamiflu, Lexapro and Lipitor.

On the day we checked, the estimated cash price for Lipitor ranged from $14 at Costco to $146 dollars at Walgreens. But with the GoodRx coupon, that Costco price drops to about $8.

Most pharmacies are offering Lexapro for about $10 to $11 with the free GoodRx coupon. That's about a $100 less than the estimated cash price. Sam's Club offers it for free with an annual Sam's Club membership.

There is also a big price discrepancy for a one-dose pack of Tamiflu. The cash price for the antiviral medication ran anywhere from $98 at Costco to more than $160 at Publix. But with the GoodRx discount, it is available for about $52 at Walmart.

"We cover every FDA-approved prescription drug," Hirsch said.

Hirsch said they have a contract with nearly every pharmacy in the country-- more than 70,000, according to their website -- including those that do their own compounding. They also work closely with the insurance companies and drug companies in order to provide fair and accurate pricing.

Hirsch said they have already served more than 8 million people who use the GoodRx app to save them time and money when shopping around for their prescriptions. He says most people find out about GoodRx through their doctor.

"Not because we're paying them. We don't. But because they want the patients to take the drugs they prescribe," Hirsch said. "It's as simple as that."

GoodRx isn't the only option to save. 

Blink Health is another free app and website that provides a way to order medications straight from the drugmakers for a set price online. The medications can be picked up at a local participating pharmacy. According to its website, more than 40,000 pharmacies across the country participate.

Places such as Walmart, Rite Aid and Kroger accept Blink Health, but just last year Walgreens and CVS pharmacies pulled out and are no longer in the Blink Health network. 

The Blink Health price for Lipitor and Lexapro was just under $10, and less than $5 when using their $5 discount for first-time users.

But Blink Health's price for Tamiflu was still pretty high, at more than $100 dollars. Places such as Walgreens, CVS and Walmart have their own cards and plans offering deep discounts, and other benefits that can offer savings throughout their stores.

Publix has even launched its own prescription drug program that provides a 90-day supply of some of the most commonly prescribed medications for $7.50. They also offer some medications for free.

Another option is ordering from big-box retailers such as Sam's Club and Costco that offer deep prescription discounts to their card-carrying members. But with them, customers have to factor in the annual membership, which runs $60 at Costco and $100 at Sam's Club.

There are also several types of Patient Assistance Programs that can help patients afford medications that are offered directly from the drugmakers. Some even offer free medication to those who qualify.

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