Reality Check: Prescription substitutes

Prescription drug costs are on the rise, all while insurance companies’ coverage going down.

Some families are burdened with having to front the bill for costly medication.

Many Pharmacists recommend using a substitute for the prescription or a cheaper over-the-counter alternative.

If you chose the right drugs, you could start saving hundreds of dollars every month adding up to thousands each year for things like diabetes, high blood pressure, and migraines.

Nine-year-old Dylon Smith was diagnosed with Diabetes, but is dependent on medication to stay alive. For his mom, Melissa Smith, the cost adds up quickly.

“You drop off your scripts and walk away with $750 to $1,000 worth of medications,” Smith said. “So, you have to reprioritize how diabetes is going to fit into your usual household.”

In 2017 prescription drug costs are expected to jump 11.6 percent. That has increased greatly from last year, and Pharmacists say there’s no slowing down.

Dawn Rantinella, lead pharmacist with Center City Pharmacy in West Palm Beach, says that choosing alternative medication could save you money instantly.

Rantinella said there are inexpensive over-the-counter and prescription substitutes you can take instead of those costly medications.

It’s all about breaking sown the ingredients. You can buy the active ingredient in the brand-name drugs for less.

“Most of the time it is the same drugs. It is just they combine them together, and make one big drug, so the drug companies can then charge a brand-name cost,” Rantinella said.

Rantinella said for high blood pressure, instead of Benicar HCT, you can take the two active ingredients, Olmesartan and Hydrochlorothiazide. The substitution would save hundreds a month.

“So, if you’re getting the same medication that you’re in the brand name, there’s really no need to pay that higher price, especially if you’re on a budget,” Rantinella said.

Instead of buying the diet pill Contrave for hundreds a month, Rantinella said you can take the two ingredients Bupropion and Naltrexone for less than $30 a month.

And instead of the diabetes medication Avandament, Rantinella said you take a combination of Avandia and Metformin for just $14.

Smith said she would be hesitant to try any alternatives because her son’s life depends on the medication.

“Is that something that is really an alternative for me, or am I better off staying with what I have?” Smith said.

Rantinella said with any prescription drug or cheaper substitution, it is always best to ask your doctor first.

Rantinella said the only time she would not recommend a substitute for a cheaper medication is if the patient already knew he or she was allergic to it.