DRUGSUS (11/24/2013) - Prescription drugs can be quite expensive, and even those who have health insurance often pay more than they need to. According to a 2012 Consumer Reports "Best Drugs" poll on prescription drugs, Americans routinely take an average of four medications per day, spending nearly $800 on drug costs each year. Those who do not have health insurance may have to pay much more out of pocket.

As expensive as prescription medications can be, there are still ways to save money on prescription drug costs.

Comparison shop

Believe it or not, drug prices vary depending on the time of the year and even the pharmacy. A person can shop around for the most affordable medication just like they would when buying another product. Prescription drug apps enable you to search for discounts in your neighborhood.

Read your bill

Medical coding and billing is not always accurate. Employees entering codes may put in the wrong information, inadvertently charging a person for the wrong medication. Treat your medical bills as you would any other bill and verify that the charges are correct. If you have any doubts, check the drug name with your doctor and then consult with the pharmacy to see if an error was made.

Opt for generic medications

Generic versions of hundreds of brand name prescription drugs are available and typically cost a lot less money. With a generic medicine you are not paying for marketing and advertising costs. These drugs are routinely tested for efficacy and safety. There is really no reason to select a name-brand medicine over the generic alternative, even when it comes to over-the-counter drugs. Ask your doctor on your script to check the box for the generic option.

Use a preferred pharmacy mail-order service

Certain insurance companies have negotiated discounts with mail-order pharmacies and pass on the savings to their members. Medicare and other government-sponsored plans may offer the same type of deal, and consumers can save a substantial amount of money by opting for mail-order service.

Consider big wholesalers for prescriptions

You may think of Costco or Sam's Club as your go-to place to buy 30-packs of toilet tissue, but these retailers also offer discounts on prescription drugs. Even nonmembers are allowed to use these warehouses for their prescription drug needs. Big wholesalers could give you the best deal on your pills.

Skip the insurance sometimes

Consumer Reports says hundreds of commonly used generic medications can be purchased for around $10 for a three-month supply at various major chains. Program details vary, but consumers might be able to save a lot of money by using these programs and leaving their insurance cards in their wallets.

Opt for OTC

In many cases, an over-the-counter medication may be just as effective as a prescription drug. Talk to your doctor about trying an OTC remedy before a prescription is written. Ibuprofen may relieve arthritis pain, and diphenhydramine could alleviate insomnia, all at a much lower cost than prescription drugs.

Prescription drug costs can add up. But there are a number of strategies consumers can employ to reduce the out-of-pocket expenditures on medications.

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