A penny saved...

You can use the Internet to look up brand-name drugs you are on which have much cheaper generic equivalents and allow a price comparison. You can even compare the cost of any drug at several local pharmacies. Two sites I recommend include www.destinationrx.com and www.pillbot.com.

Another option if you want brand-name drugs is to buy them from a reputable Canadian website to get prices usually cheaper than any U.S. source. In 2004 the average price of generic drugs was $29 and brand-name drugs $96. Several states, including New Hampshire, buy prescription drugs in Canada.

Too often physicians have become robots to the drug industry and in their busy schedule don't advocate strongly enough to save money for their patients. Don't hesitate to ask whether a less expensive generic drug would do just as well as the brand-name drug you are taking. You also can always ask your local pharmacist to give you a cheaper generic unless the physician writes DAW (dispense as written) on the prescription. If I'm too busy to look it up I'll advise my patient to ask the pharmacist to suggest any less expensive drug equivalent to what I am prescribing and I'm happy to change drugs when clinically appropriate. Having used an electronic medical record and electronic prescribing in my practice for the past 4 years, I can see immediately when a cheaper drug is available for the patient as I write the Rx. Let your doctor know if expensive drug co-pays are putting you in the poor house.

Dr. Josh Schwartzberg practices in Lake Placid, Willsboro and Burlington. He can be reached at www.docjosh.com or 518-963-4355

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