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Consumer Reports: Buying prescriptions online

Posted at 7:40 AM, May 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-23 10:03:36-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF/CONSUMER REPORTS) — If you get your prescription drugs mailed to you, you may have been relying on drug store chains like CVS and Walgreens. But times have changed, and online pharmacies are becoming increasingly good options.

There are a lot more legitimate online pharmacies these days, giving you plenty of low-cost options for getting your prescriptions filled. The savings can be substantial if you know where to shop.

For Nicole Phillips, taking generic Strattera helped her manage her ADHD, but she found it hard to afford.

“Because of my high deductible, the generic Strattera, it was over $800,” Phillips said.

Because of the high price, Nicole had to make a tough choice.

“I stopped using it because of the cost,” said Phillips.

Nicole is not alone. In a recent Kaiser Family Foundation analysis, three in 10 adults who need a prescription drug said they didn’t take it as directed in the past year because the cost was too high. And it’s not just the uninsured who are struggling, says Consumer Reports's Lisa Gill.

“Many people who are insured may have high drug deductibles to meet before any discounts start,” Gill said.

A savings solution might be found online. Big-name retailers such as Amazon and Costco offer discounted drugs, as do sites like GeniusRx, Honeybee Health, and others.

To see if the savings are real, CR went to work, comparing prices so you don’t have to.

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

CR also found substantial savings if you order your medication for multiple months. For example, at Ro Pharmacy, you can get a 30-day supply of generic Lipitor — a cholesterol-lowering medicine — for $9.90. A year’s supply? Just $19.80.

But there may be some drawbacks if you’re paying out of pocket for your medication. For one, that money won’t typically go towards your insurance deductible.

Another drawback — you might 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. They pretty much only offer low-cost generic drugs,” said Gill.

Another problem: they might not do as good a job as your local pharmacy in checking for dangerous drug interactions.

The bottom line is that these sites might be able to help you save money. But if you take a lot of drugs, or complex drugs, sticking with a local pharmacy may be a better bet.

Before you try an online pharmacy, make sure the site can ship to you. Four of those sites Consumer Reports checked out do ship to all 50 states.