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Over-the-counter medications can save money

Consumer Reports: Many OTC meds as good or better than prescriptions

Many Americans grappling with the high cost of medicine may be putting themselves in harm's way, according to the Consumer Reports National Research Center.

A just-released survey showed patients are not filling prescriptions, are taking expired drugs and are skipping doses. Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs has advice to help consumers save money safely.

While nearly half of all adult Americans take prescription medication regularly, the best remedy for common ailments like allergies, acid reflux or aches and pains might already be in their medicine cabinet.

"Our analysis shows that many over-the-counter medications work just as well or better than prescription drugs for a whole host of ailments," said Dr. John Santa, Consumer Reports' medical expert.

For heartburn, purple Nexium and colorful Prevacid are popular prescriptions. But nonprescription Tums or generic antacids cost a lot less and can relieve occasional heartburn.

For more serious heartburn, there are over-the-counter options, too, Consumer Reports said.

"Even if you've been diagnosed with acid reflux or GERD, research shows that over-the-counter Prilosec or Prevacid work just as effectively as pricier prescription drugs," Santa said.

Even better, generic omeprazole, which can save you as much as $192 a month.

For allergy sufferers, over-the-counter antihistamine pills like Claritin, Alavert, Zyrtec, and their generics are just as effective as the prescription drugs Astepro, Clarinex, and Xyzal, Consumer Reports said. You could save up to $148 a month.

And for joint pain, prescription Celebrex provides relief. But over-the-counter drugs like Advil, Tylenol, Aleve and their generics may work just as well and could save as much as $265 a month.

Whether you're taking an over-the-counter drug or a prescription, talk to your doctor if symptoms continue for more than 10 days.

Consumer Reports also sent its team of secret shoppers to find the best prices on 43 popular over-the-counter remedies. The result: Walmart had the lowest prices on most drugs, with Target a close second.

To view a list of recent stories Marilyn Moritz has done, click here.


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