Online pharmacies ease pain of pricey prescriptions

One pharmacy offers generic for Lipitor for 54 cents a month

A growing number of online pharmacies offer big savings on many prescription drugs.

SAN ANTONIO – The chronically high price of many prescription drugs is enough to make you feel sick. Now a growing number of online pharmacies are offering big savings on some drugs.

Nicole Phillips takes generic Strattera to manage her ADHD, but she says she just can’t afford it.

“Because of my high deductible, the generic Strattera, it was over $800,” she said. “I stopped using it because of the cost.”

It’s a familiar dilemma. An analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that three in 10 adults said they did not take their prescription as directed last year because the cost was too high.

It’s not just the uninsured who are struggling. Many people who have health insurance have high deductibles to meet before the benefits and discounts kick in.

Many consumers may find relief by shopping online. Big retailers like Amazon and Costco offer discounted drugs.

And, there are more and more websites that do, too, including Genius RX, Honeybee Health, Scriptco, RO Pharmacy, Mark Cuban’s Cost Plus Drugs, and Health Warehouse.

To see if the savings are real, Consumer Reports compared prices.

“In general, we found that the prices online were low,” said Consumer Reports’ Lisa Gill.

For example, looking at a 30-day supply of Atorvastatin, the generic for the cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor, they found it as low as 54 cents at Scriptco.com. It was $4.50 at GeniusRX and $3.90 at CostPlusDrugs.com. Amazon’s price was $14.60.

They found substantial savings when ordering for multiple months. For example, at RO Pharmacy, the 30-day supply of the generic Lipitor was $9.90, but the year’s supply was $19.80.

There are some downsides. You may not be able to find your exact prescription.

“Several of these sites we checked aren’t full service pharmacies, so they may not carry insulin or brand name drugs,” Gill said. “They pretty much only offer low-cost generic drugs.”

Some do not accept insurance. So, by paying out of pocket, those costs do not help to meet the deductible.

Some have membership fees. Scriptco, with the super-discounted generic for Lipitor, has a $140 per year fee. Amazon Prime has a $139 annual fee.

There may be shipping fees and shipping times to consider.

And, they may not do as good of a job as your local pharmacy checking for dangerous drug interactions.

Bottom line, online pharmacies may be big money-savers, but they are not best for everyone. People with complex prescriptions or who have several, may be better off with the personal service a brick-and-mortar pharmacy offers.


About the Author:

As a consumer reporter, Marilyn is all about helping people stay safe and save a buck. Since coming to KSAT in 1985, she’s covered everything from crime to politics, winning awards for her coverage of the Mexican Mafia, Oklahoma tornadoes, children’s transplants, an investigation into voting irregularities and even a hit-and-run Santa Claus.