7 On Your Side: How to cut costs on prescription drugs

Some 32-million people were hit with price hikes on prescription drugs in the past year, according to a Consumer Reports survey.

And it's not just for big brand names or specialty drugs. even longtime generics drugs are seeing an increase.

Marlene Condon suffers from rheumatoid arthritis. She's been taking hydroxychloroquine, a generic that's been available for almost two decades.

"I do credit that drug from keeping me from becoming crippled, which I am sure I would be by now," she said.

Two years ago, a three-month's supply cost $32 dollars. Last fall, it skyrocketed to $500 out-of-pocket. So she stopped taking the medication.

"I stopped taking the drug hoping that I wouldn't have a flare-up of my arthritis. And what happened was that I was in such bad state that it took a long time to get it back under control," she explained.

Consumer Reports has just released an investigation of high drug prices and says Marlene's experience is not isolated.

"Our survey found that when people are hit with higher drug costs, they don't go to the doctor. They don't fill their prescriptions. And when they do fill the prescription, they don't follow them as directed," said Lisa Gill with Consumer Reports.

In most cases, pharmaceutical companies can raise the price of drugs without any restrictions. So what can you do?

"Let your doctor know you're concerned about costs. He or she may be able to help you find you a less expensive alternative or appeal to your insurance company to cover the costs," said Gill.

And shop around for better deals. Consumer Reports has found prices vary widely, even within the same zip code. And check online for free coupons. GoodRX.com is one source.

Consumer Reports also recommends low-cost online pharmacies based in the U.S., such as healthwarehouse.com. But be careful of fraudulent websites. Only use a retailer that displays the Vipps symbol that shows it's a Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice site.

Consumer Reports is published by Consumers Union. Both Consumer Reports and Consumers Union are not-for-profit organizations that accept no advertising. Neither has any commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site.

(All Consumer Reports Material Copyright 2014. Consumers Union of U.S. Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)
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