Politicians have proposed allowing drug importation to lower prescription drug costs based on the false idea that all medicine is cheaper in Canada than it is here. In reality, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved generic drugs are just as affordable or cheaper in the U.S. as they are in Canada.
We called several brick-and-mortar Canadian pharmacies asking about prices and found that a 30-day prescription of 100 mcg tablets of brand-name Synthroid would cost roughly $10.51 USD there, inclusive of the foreign transaction fee (2.5%), the cost would be $10.77. A search on GoodRx.com showed the best price for Levothyroxine, the generic version of Synthroid, was $4.00 for 30-day supply from Walmart. A 90-day supply of the generic only costs $10.00. Americans can purchase three months’ worth of the FDA-approved generic for less than Canadians pay for a one-month supply of the brand-name drug.
Are generic drugs a big part of medications dispensed in America?
According to LowestMed.com, of the 50 most frequently prescribed medications in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2016, only three were for brand-name drugs. Levothyroxine was the second most frequently prescribed drug on the list. Crestor, which we recently wrote about, did not have a generic version available at that time, but there are now over a dozen FDA-approved generic versions on the market. Generic drugs are rigorously tested by the FDA, have the same amounts of active ingredients as the brand-name versions and are bioequivalent to the brand-name drug, delivering the same amount of the active ingredient at the same rate into a person’s bloodstream.
How can I use this tip to save money for my family?
Talk to your pharmacist about price matching and cash prices
According to Consumer Reports, your local, independent pharmacist has the most flexibility to help you find the best price. Switching to a generic version of the drug or paying the cash price for a medication can lower your prescription costs. Believe it or not, sometimes it costs less to pay cash for a medication than using your insurance. Your local, independent pharmacist can tell you this. You can also use the prices you find from licensed U.S. pharmacies through GoodRX.com to ask your local pharmacist to price match. It is important to keep all of your prescriptions with your local, independent pharmacists so that they can supervise your health care, especially for drug interactions.
Use medications discount programs like NeedyMeds and Medicine Assistance Tool
For years, the best advice we have given patients is to get a NeedyMeds discount card and to see if the Medicine Assistance Tool (MAT) program is right for them. The NeedyMeds discount card is entirely free, good in all fifty U.S. states and should absolutely be your first step for any savings plan. The MAT program matches patients who are under-insured with benefit programs provided by pharmaceutical manufacturers. If you qualify, you can get your prescription subsidized or even paid for entirely by the program.