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How Pharmacists Can Help Patients Save Money

Monday, July 20, 2009

Milwaukee, Wis. -- With the economy in a downturn, more and more people are looking for ways to save money on their prescription drugs. One of their greatest resources can be their Aurora pharmacist, who can offer information about rebates, generics or money-saving cards from drug manufacturers.

One of the latest resources is the Aurora Pharmacy Prescription Savings Club. It is available for $11.99 per year and offers individuals a 30-day prescription of more than 300 generic drugs for $4.99 and 90-day prescriptions of these same generics for $10.99. Customers also receive $12 in coupons for Aurora Pharmacy brand products when they enroll.

But there are even more ways to save when you consult with your pharmacist, said Stephanie Jackson, RPh, of the Aurora Pharmacy in Fond du Lac.

"We always encourage people to ask questions. If we can find a way to help them save money or find out more information about their medications, we're happy to help," she said. "First, we'll talk about options. For instance, is there is a generic equivalent or discount card for the prescription? Is there a rebate card from the manufacturer? These are all ideas to explore," Jackson said.

If those options are not feasible, there are other ways to save.

"We try to come up with therapeutic options," Jackson said. "We'll see if there is a generic form of the medication. Generics have been proven as safe and effective as brand-name medications. Another option is pill splitting, which is not my favorite solution because some pills are difficult to break. You also have to be very careful about pill-splitting and consult your pharmacist first. Many pills have a coating because the drug is a time-release release formula or the drug may be irritating to the stomach. Breaking or splitting pills breaks the coating and can lead to adverse reactions or side effects."

In the short-term, samples can help ease some of the burden but it's not a permanent solution. That's where rebate cards come into play, Jackson said.

"Do an internet search of the medications you take because sometimes there are rebates that we don't know about. If you do know you have a discount always ask your pharmacist to make sure it's being used. There's a lot to remember, and a lot of different cards, and we want to make sure you get the full discount."

Other options, Jackson said, include asking your pharmacist to look at different drugs in same class of medication. "They do the same things, but one may be cheaper than another. And sometimes an over the counter drug would work just as well. For example, Prilosec OTC costs about $27 while Nexium can cost up to $150."

Jackson says it pays to be ever vigilant. "If cost is continually a concern, keep talking to your physician and health care team, including the pharmacist. We're going to go the extra step to find something affordable for you. For example, we'll talk to your insurance company to find out which medications are covered. Keeping an open dialogue is important. You never know if there are changes such as new rebate cards or a brand drug for which there is a new generic version," she said.

"The worst idea is to stop taking medications without talking to anyone. If you've been on a medication for a long time, you could have withdrawal symptoms. Sometimes you might not even know if you are having adverse effect. Often medications are preventative - you take them so you don't have a heart attack or a build up of fluid, and skipping those medications could result in a trip to the emergency room or having surgery. And those things are certainly more costly and time consuming in the long run."

Jackson also cautions patients about herbal remedies. "A lot of herbal and over the counter medications may make claims about lowering cholesterol or other benefits and they may be cheaper, but using them could lead to drug interactions or side effects. If you want to try those alternatives, please have a discussion with your health care provider to see what options are available. After all, knowledge is power."

Aurora Health Care is a not-for-profit Wisconsin health care provider and a national leader in efforts to improve the quality of health care. Aurora offers care at sites in more than 90 communities throughout eastern Wisconsin.

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Contact: Sue Pierman
414-647-6432
sue.pierman@aurora.org

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