Coupons can save money on prescriptions

Prescription medication costs can vary widely, depending on the type of medication and what insurance plans may cover. It's beneficial to check to see what costs would be from online coupons, Dr. Keith Roach says.



November 3, 2022 - 2:09 PM

DEAR DR. ROACH: Today was a real eye-opener for me. Two days ago, I visited my doctor, who prescribed vancomycin for a digestive problem I was having. Today I got a call from my usual big-chain pharmacy telling me my prescription was ready at a cost of $685 for a 10-day supply.

I called my drug plan provider (I am on Medicare with a supplemental policy and prescription drug program), and they confirmed that was the price. I then found a website that offers coupons for prescriptions. Much to my amazement, a nearby big-chain grocery store pharmacy was offering the exact same drug and quantity for $77.99 with the online coupon.

How is this possible, and does a doctor’s office usually have any idea what the “normal” cost of a prescription should be? How about giving the patient a heads-up? B.R.

ANSWER: I can’t speak for all doctors, but I am very aware of most drug costs (my electronic system gives me a price estimate, plus I listen to feedback from patients). However, what insurance companies will pay remains almost a complete mystery, with some of my patients getting extremely expensive drugs (some costing 10 times, or more, of what your vancomycin cost) for a $10 copay, while others are paying far more than I expect for drugs that used to be very inexpensive.

For that reason, I make my patients aware of online coupon services, such as What my patients pay using their coupons is sometimes less than the copays from their insurance. Unfortunately, drug companies know that people are willing to pay for some drugs, so sometimes you can’t save any money. Pharmaceutical company assistance plans are another source of getting prescriptions for a lower cost than insurance or retail pharmacy costs, if you qualify.

DEAR DR. ROACH: I am a 75-year-old man who has recently found myself unable to hold back urinating much of the time. I cannot get to the bathroom soon enough or can’t unzip my pants fast enough. I know there are supposed to be exercises for this, and I have tried them from time to time with mixed results. I think I am too far gone for them now. Interestingly, I never pee in the bed, even though the need to go wakes me up every hour or every hour and a half. I was on a Flomax derivative for quite a while to control the size of my prostate, but was taken off of it by my cardiologist due to shortness of breath, which is now gone. Every once in a while, I take one anyway, but I don’t think this would be any help toward solving the problem. Is there anything I can do? — M.C.

ANSWER: Urinary urgency (the sense of needing to go right away) is common in older men, usually due to the prostate, but sometimes due to an overactive bladder. Infection needs to be ruled out first, then a drug like tamsulosin (Flomax) is often tried. If this isn’t well-tolerated, there are other similar drugs, or a different class of drugs, to shrink the prostate, such as finasteride (Proscar). However, before going too far down the route of medications, I will refer my patients to a urologist, who has the ability to test whether it’s the prostate or the bladder that’s the real problem.

Pelvic floor exercises are effective for both men and women with overactive bladder symptoms, but you need to find out what’s causing the problem (infection, prostate or bladder) first.