According to the American Diabetes Association, over 30 million American children and adults have diabetes. Another 84 million Americans have prediabetes and are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Over 75 million of those people are not aware of the danger they are in. Type 1 diabetes means that a person’s pancreas is no longer able to produce insulin, requiring daily insulin injections to maintain an appropriate blood glucose level. Type 2 diabetes, which develops most often in middle-aged and older adults, but can appear in children, is characterized by high blood glucose levels due to either a lack of insulin or the inability of a person’s body to effectively use insulin.
While some individuals with type 2 diabetes need insulin injections to manage their condition, others only need to make lifestyle improvements and take an oral medication to keep their blood glucose levels within an acceptable range. Metformin, the generic version of Glucophage, is a popular treatment option and it was the fifth most frequently prescribed medication in the U.S. during the first quarter of 2016 according to LowestMed.com.
We wanted to compare how much a 30-day prescription for metformin would cost in the U.S. versus Canada. Using GoodRX.com’s search tool, the best cash price that we could find for a 30-day supply (60 pills in total) of 500mg metformin pills costs $4 at any Walmart or Kmart pharmacy. When we called and spoke with a pharmacist at a Walmart in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the price was $15.09 CAD. After converting to U.S. dollars and including the foreign exchange fee, the same prescription costs $12.31 in Canada, over three times as much American’s pay for the same medication.
Are generic drugs a big part of medications dispensed in America?
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, approximately 85% of all prescriptions filled in the U.S. are for generic drugs. Generics have the same effectiveness, strength, purity, safety, and active ingredients as brand-name drugs. The only differences in a generic are the inactive ingredients, appearance, and price. Generics can cost 85% less than the brand-name drugs they are virtually identical to. Of the 50 drugs on LowestMeds.com’s list of most prescribed medications in the first quarter of 2016, 47 of them, 94%, were for generics.
How can I use this tip to save money for my family?
Shopping around can save you on your prescription costs
According to Consumer Reports, about 40% of the people they surveyed said they had cut corners with their prescription drugs to make ends meet – splitting pills, skipping doses or not filling their prescriptions at all. If you are concerned about the price of a medication, the first person you should speak to is your doctor to see if a lower-cost alternative in the same class of drugs is available.
Also, know that sometimes it is cheaper to pay the cash price for a prescription drug than it is to use your insurance. If you have a smartphone, we recommend installing GoodRx.com’s app, available for Apple or Android devices. This app will let you search the best cash price of medications by zip code while you are meeting with your doctor. There can be a significant price difference for the same medication at different pharmacies within the same town. No matter where you find the best price, it is important to have all of your medications filled at one location so that the pharmacist can monitor for any negative interactions.
If you take more than one medication and want to find which pharmacy in your area will give you the best overall cash price for all of them, NeedyMeds.org’s drug pricing calculator is the best tool for you. All you have to do is enter your zip code, set the size of the search area, and add which medications you need. A list is then created showing the cash prices at all pharmacies within your search area. NeedyMeds also has a drug discount card which can help you save up to 80% off the cash price of prescription drugs. This program is free to everyone and does not have any income, age, insurance or residency restrictions.