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Rx patients hit with higher out-of-pocket costs

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Consumer Reports survey finds 25% pay more for same drug

The consumer advocacy organization said Tuesday that the phone survey of nearly 1,000 adults who take prescription medicines regularly also showed that some Americans are digesting sizable cost increases.

Of respondents reporting that they pay more out of pocket, 24% said they forked over $50 or more for a single prescription this year than for the same prescription a year earlier. Similarly, 47% of those who now pay more out of pocket paid an additional $20 or more for a drug they regularly take, and 15% paid $100 more this year for one of their prescriptions versus a year ago.

The prescription drug cost survey was conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center on behalf of the Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs program.

“Those are big, burdensome increases for nearly 28 million consumers, with very little indication that the problem of rising costs will be solved anytime soon,” Lisa Gill, deputy editor of Consumer Reports’ Best Buy Drugs, said in a statement. “Consumers are seeing significant out-of-pocket cost increases across the board, from generics to treat common conditions to newer drug therapies.”

What’s more, 74% of regular prescription drug users who now pay more for their medications said they received no advance notification that their cost might rise. Consumer Reports noted that insurers are required to give consumers advance notice if coverage of a drug is dropped or its level of coverage changes. Under Medicare Part D, for example, seniors must receive 60 days’ notice of any coverage changes.

“Those changes can be huge for consumers, resulting in hundreds of dollars extra per year just for a single medication,” according to Gill. Co-payments for drugs shifted to a higher tier of coverage can swell from $10 or $15 to $40 or $50, Consumer Reports noted.

• Asked the pharmacist or doctor for a less expensive drug (35%)

• Asked the pharmacist for a lower price on the same drug (22%)

• Called the insurer to see if it would cover a larger portion of the cost (20%)

• Used a discount coupon (17%)

• Shopped at another pharmacy for a lower price (15%)

• Shopped online for a lower price (11%)

And in a finding that Consumer Reports called “concerning,” 24% of regular prescription drug users said they’re “not at all confident” that they will have access to affordable medications in the future.

The company’s Best Drugs for Less program said ways that consumers can save on prescription drugs include requesting generics, comparing drug benefit plans during open enrollment periods, getting 90-day prescriptions and asking their doctor about medication costs.

Consumer Reports’ Best Buy Drugs also pointed consumers to Costco for prescriptions, saying that the wholesale club chain “consistently offered among the lowest retail prices.” Consumer Reports also cited $4/$10 discount generics programs at retailers such as Walmart and Sam’s Club and suggested that consumers check out a local independent pharmacy, where it found “some real bargains.”

Other recommendations included using the GoodRx.com drug price checker tool and using discount coupons available at Blinkhealth.com, GoodRx.com or LowestMed.com.


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