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Help Your Employees Save Money on Drugs

Most employers are doing all they can to keep their employees’ health insurance and health care outlays to a minimum.

And while most of those efforts are focused on the upfront cost of insurance, co-pays and deductibles, many employers fail to help their employees control the very costs they actually have the most control over and one of those areas is medicine.

Helping your employees become wise consumers of health services can also cut your overall insurance costs as well as help your employees conserve more of their own funds if they have high co-pays and deductibles.

The cost of drugs can vary greatly between pharmacies to a shocking degree. And while your employees may have low co-pays for some drugs, if they go to the most expensive option when the insurance is covering the tab, it basically adds to the cost drivers for your insurance plan.

Here’s how wild the price swings can be. Consumer Reports recently surveyed pharmacies to price out a basket of five popular generic prescription drugs and here are the prices:

  • Healthwarehouse.com: $66
  • Costco:  $150
  • Various independents: $107
  • Sam’s Club: $153
  • Walmart: $518
  • Kmart: $535
  • Grocery stores: $565
  • Walgreens: $752
  • Rite Aid: $866
  • CVS/Target: $928

It also pays to shop around from store to store and ask for discounts.

“A Rite Aid store near our headquarters in Yonkers, N.Y., was able to get the price of atorvastatin, the generic version of Lipitor, down to just $18 from $300 through a combination of in-store and external discount programs,” the report states. “But at another Rite Aid, we were told the cost could only be lowered to $127.”

Consumer Reports recommends that your employees:

  • Use online discounts. There are a number of websites that can provide you with discount coupons or vouchers for drugs, including:
    • GoodRx
    • Blink Health
    • WeRx.org

On these sites you enter the name of the drug, dosage and quantity and where you live and it will provide coupons or vouchers and identify which pharmacies you can use them at.

  • Expand your shopping horizons. As you can see on the list above, prices vary tremendously. And combining shopping around with a good plan for using coupons and your employees can save themselves and your health plan boat loads of money.
    They should also check out their local warehouse discount store as both Costco’s and Sam’s Club’s pharmacies were also quite reasonable.
    Not to be outdone, neighborhood pharmacies and grocery store pharmacies were also much cheaper than the large regional drug store chains. “The absolute lowest prices we found in each city we called were almost always at these kinds of stores,” Consumer Reports wrote.
  • Ask pharmacies if they will honor online coupons. Pharmacies will almost always honor them, Consumer Reports found. But Consumer Reports mystery shoppers had to be persistent in getting the pharmacies to use them, since they often run prescriptions through insurance automatically, even when paying the retail cash price and using discount coupons would cost less.

One last thing

Consumer Reports recommended that once someone settles on pharmacy that consistently gives them good deals on pharmaceuticals, they should fill all of their prescriptions there.

That way it’s easier for them to spot “potentially dangerous interactions and other safety concerns.”

But if your employees notice that their pharmacy bills start rising noticeably, it may be time for them to start shopping around again. To stay on top of this requires regular checks to make sure that they are not seeing prices creep up.


As Drug Prices Skyrocket, This Top 10 List Will Shock You

It’s no secret that the cost of pharmaceuticals is going through the roof. You’ve heard the stories of price-gouging by some companies that have jacked up prices thousands of percent.

Drug costs are starting to weigh heavily on the cost of care, in turn driving up health insurance premiums, which individuals, employees and employers are all feeling. The cost of some medications is so extreme that a single dose may far surpass the total premium paid for coverage.

Also, most people never really know the true price of a drug unless they are 100% on the hook for medications under their health plan. Often, you may have a copay that may differ depending on the type of drug, so people usually only see what they pay. However, every year more people are on the hook for the price of their drug due to high-deductible insurance plans and formulary changes.

The website Goodrx.com, a service for comparing and locating the best prescription prices, publishes a list every year of the most expensive drugs in the country.

While few individuals will pay these full amounts, some do because of their poor choice of health plans (like ones that saddle them with 100% of drug costs) or because they have been placed in a high-deductible health plan. The following is the top 10 list, in reverse order, of monthly prices that are set by the drug companies and known as the wholesale acquisition cost:

  1. Cuprimine – $31,426

Cuprimine removes copper build-up caused by Wilson’s disease. Patients take one capsule of Cuprimine after every meal. The list price is $261.89 per pill.

  1. Harvoni – $31,500

Harvoni is the first, once-daily combination drug used to treat Hepatitis C. Patients usually take it for 12 weeks. The cost per tablet: $1,125.

  1. Firazyr – $32,468.40

Firazyr is an injectable medicine used after an attack of hereditary angioedema. The typical patient suffers two to four attacks per month. A pack of three syringes costs $32,468.

  1. Juxtapid – $36,992

Juxtapid is used to treat people with homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia, a gene mutation that leads to cardiovascular disease. The dosage is about one day. The cost per capsule: $1,321.

  1. H.P. Acthar – $38,892

Also referred to as Acthar, this medicine is used to treat multiple conditions, including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, infantile spasms, ophthalmic conditions, and psoriatic arthritis. The dosage is one vial a month, which costs $38,892 (for perspective, a vial cost $40.17 in 2001 and the price shot up after a new manufacturer took over).

  1. Myalept – $42,137

Myalept is used to treat leptin deficiency in patients with generalized lipodystrophy. Myalept is self-administered once a day in measured doses from vials, each one of which lasts about three days. The cost per vial: $4,213.

  1. Chenodal – $42,570

Chenodal is used to dissolve gallstones. Dosing varies and pills are manufactured at different strengths. Sadly, while this medicine is off-patent, which means that other manufacturers could legally produce generics, Chenodal is protected under what is referred to as a “closed distribution system.” That prevents generic drug-makers from purchasing a brand name drug. The list price for a month’s supply of Chenodal is $42,570.

  1. Cinryze – $44,140

Cinryze is used to treat hereditary angioedema, a rare life-threatening genetic condition that causes swelling in various parts of the body, including hands, face and throat. A one month’s supply runs to 16 vials, and the cost per vial is $2,758.

  1. Daraprim – $45,000

Daraprim is commonly given to AIDS and transplant patients to prevent infection, and is used to treat toxoplasmosis in otherwise healthy people. This is the medicine that got Martin Shkreli in hot water after the company at which he was CEO in 2015 raised the price per pill from $13.50 a pop to $750 almost overnight. While Daraprim can now often be obtained for $473 a tablet, the list price remains at around $45,000 for a month’s supply of 60 pills.

  1. Actimmune – $52,321

This is used to treat osteopetrosis and chronic granulomatous disease, which causes the immune system to malfunction. Patients use about 12 single-use vials a month, and each vial costs $4,360.


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