PharmacyChecker Blog

Helping Americans Get The Truth About Prescription Drug Savings
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Are old drugs safer than new drugs? The answer might be “yes” and they are cheaper too!

Most people think newer is better, but according to a study published in Health Affairs that might not be the case for prescription drugs. In short, the new study shows that drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration after enactment of the Prescription Drug User Fee Act of 1992 (PDUFA), a bill that led to more expeditious drug approvals funded by drug companies, were more likely to have safety problems than ones approved before PDUFA.  These findings are not only relevant to drug safety, but also to drug savings.  Older drugs are often sold as generics and, thus, will have much lower co-payments than new drugs.  For those paying out-of-pocket, the cost of a generic is often 80% less than the brand.

The study analyzed 748 drug approvals between 1975 and 2009. The approvals were of new molecular entities not for generic versions of existing brand-name drugs. Before PDUFA the chances that safety issues would arise involving approved new drugs was 21.2%; after PDUFA it increased to 26.7%.

According to the lead author, “The FDA needs to make sure drugs are safe before they’re approved, not rush to judgment in order to meet artificial deadlines.” Not surprisingly, FDA and the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America, take issue with the study. Their main points are that PDUFA helped speed up important drug approvals and get medications to patients faster and it improved the predictability of FDA’s system of drug approvals.

Regulations for marketing and manufacturing new drugs can save people and they can kill people. If the regulations are too rigid then patients won’t get needed medications fast enough. Or regulations can increase manufacturing costs resulting in unaffordable drug prices. If regulations are too weak then drugs will be less safe and effective.  While in my opinion the study clearly has merit, PDUFA is helpful. Before its passage, drug approvals were lagging far behind other advanced economies in Europe.

Furthermore, the study does not show “causality,” meaning it does not prove that faster drug approvals after PDUFA led to less safer drugs. Nonetheless, it’s understandable that a drug with a long history of safe and effective use, accompanied by few side effects, is more trustworthy than a newly approved drug since the long term effects of the latter are unknown.

But what does this all mean for consumers and drug savings? (more…)

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Lexapro, Zoloft, and Prozac: The Best Savings

About 30 million Americans take anti-depressants,which mean that their prices greatly impact our national medicine bill. Belonging to a class known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s), Lexapro, Zoloft, and Prozac are among the most popular brand name antidepressants available. While all three of these medications – and other SSRI’s – are available as generics, if you’re paying out-of-pocket, finding the best price isn’t usually as simple as walking into your local pharmacy…

Generic SSRI’s At My Local Pharmacy
Zoloft and Prozac have been available as generics since 2007 and 2001, respectively. The price for the brands are incredibly high – $558 for 90 pills of Zoloft (100 mg) and $720 for 90 pills of Prozac (10 mg). Luckily, the generic prices are much lower. Generic Zoloft, known as sertraline, is $146.97 at my local pharmacy for 90 pills. Generic Prozac – called fluoxetine – is only $15.99.

The $15.99 for 90 pills (10 mg) of fluoxetine, is a great deal, but it can still be beat!In my research, the price at most brick-and-mortar pharmacies using a drug coupon was between $15 and $17.Oneeven better price was through a U.S.-based online pharmacy, where it was $9.50 for 90 pills.

The real savings comes in the search for generic Zoloft. There is absolutely no need to pay $146.97 for 90 pills (100 mg), the price mentioned above at mylocal pharmacy. A drug discount card can reduce the price to around $65. And a drug coupon can bring it down to around $15 at many pharmacies in my neighborhood.That’s an 89% savings, and just over $500 saved annually.

When a generic is first introduced, there are usually only one or two companies making the product, so the price remains high:case in point, Lexapro (escitalopram). Ninety pills (10 mg)are$351.89. Using a discount card or drug coupon reduces the price to $38.46.However, Costco crushes the competition, selling it for around $11.40. That’s an amazing97% savings, and just over $1,350 annually.

Brand Name SSRI’s
If you need the brand name SSRI, the lowest prices are found internationally. Just make sure the pharmacy is verified by a third party, such as those listed on The average savings on brand name Lexapro, Prozac, and Zoloft from international pharmaciesis 82%. View the savings chart below:

Savings on Lexapro (10 mg, 90 pills)

Pharmacy Price Savings
Local Pharmacy $590.97
International Online Pharmacy $84.60 $506.37
Annual Savings:$2,025.48 price calculated from 100 pills

Savings on Prozac (10 mg, 90 pills)

Pharmacy Price Savings
Local Pharmacy $720.00
International Online Pharmacy $188.10 $531.90
Annual Savings: $2,127.60

Savings on Zoloft (100 mg, 90 pills)

Pharmacy Price Savings
Local Pharmacy $558.00
International Online Pharmacy $60.30 $497.70
Annual Savings: $1,990.80

The bottom line here is to check all of your options before buying generic or brand name antidepressants. Your best bets for generic Zoloft, Prozac, or Lexapro are definitely drug discount cards or coupons. You may want to print out a few different coupons and discount cards available on the internet and then bring them to a few pharmacies to compare prices. If you want or need the brand, international online pharmacies offer incredibly low prices and potentially thousands of dollars in savings each year.

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