|For cheaper prescription drugs,
see your doctor
These factors have spurred insurers
to bump up prescription drug benefit co-pays in an effort to shift
more costs to consumers.
"For years, health care in the U.S. was very
paternalistic and there was no discussion between doctors and patients
in terms of which drug was best not only for treatment but cost,"
says Devon Herrick, a senior fellow with the National Center
for Policy Analysis and author of "Shopping for Drugs."
"But now tiered co-payments provide an incentive for consumers
to ask questions about cost, because if they can get a generic instead
of a brand name, their payment will be lower."
Types of drugs available
Prescription drugs aren't the only category of medications on the
market. Because cost containment is such an important issue, it's
worth considering other options such as over-the-counter drugs and
alternative therapies when looking at medications. Here's an overview:
- Brand-name drugs.
Developed and manufactured by pharmaceutical and biotechnology
companies, brand-name drugs in the United States get patent protection
for 17 years and are subject to rigorous testing and approval
by the federal Food and Drug Administration.
- Generic drugs. Once
a brand-name drug goes off patent, other drug companies are legally
allowed to manufacture the drug without undergoing FDA testing
and approval. Generics typically cost 30 percent to 80 percent
less than the equivalent brand-name drug, according to the FDA
- Over-the-counter medications.
Medications that the FDA approves that can be sold without a doctor's
prescription are considered OTC. In some cases, run-of-the-mill,
over-the-counter drugs can be just as effective in treating the
symptoms of an illness or disease as an expensive brand-name drug.
- Alternative remedies. Natural
and herbal remedies aren't regulated by the FDA. Standards vary
in terms of manufacturing and packaging, and herbal remedies may
interact in unexpected ways with medications. Before you take
herbal remedies, do some research.
There are different ways to get prescription medicine,
including locally owned pharmacies, chain drug or grocery stores,
online pharmacies, and mail order. For more on online pharmacies,
prescriptions online: a safe bet?"