1. Health

How to Compare Drug Prices Online

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Updated May 27, 2014

One way to save money on prescription drug purchases is to compare pricing from one pharmacy to another.  Whether you are uninsured, don't have prescription drug coverage or may be approaching the Medicare doughnut hole, comparing prices among drug stores online makes sense.

But there is more to this than just knowing which drug store charges how much for the drug you think you need. Here is some advice for getting the drug you need, and saving money, too .

1. Determine whether there is a generic version of your drug available.

Generic drugs can save you a lot of money.
Getty Images - Tom Grill

A generic drug is bioidentical (from the same class of drugs). It will help you in the same way as a more expensive branded drug, for a fraction of the cost. Ask your doctor whether there is a generic version of your drug available.

2. Determine where your drug is listed in your payer's formulary.

check your drug's formulary tier
Getty Images - Terry Vine

Become familiar with your insurance company or payer's drug formulary.  The formulary is a list of drugs and their co-pays.  You might be able to save money by finding out which other drugs (from the same class of drugs) are on lower tiers, meaning they are less expensive.

Learn more about your insurer's formulary and how to work with your doctor to determine which drug will work the best, but cost the least, for you.

3. Be aware of legal and safety considerations for ordering from online pharmacies.

Thousands of rogue websites exist to take your money and hurt your health.

But dozens of online pharmacies can help you order prescription drugs safely and legally. Learn more about ordering drugs safely (health and money) and legally (avoid prison!) from Internet drug stores.

4. Access drug price comparison websites.

Comparing drug pricing
Getty Images - Jamie Grill

Once you have determined what your options are among generics, lower-tiered or branded drugs, then use any of the following websites to help you determine their costs. For example, here at the About.com Patient Empowerment site we maintain a list of pharmacies that offer free and low-cost drugs.

Other sites:

AARP Drug Savings Tool

Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs (may be identical to AARP tool)

Pharma Helper

Pharmacy Checker

Good Rx

You may also want to learn more about purchasing your drugs from a Canadian, Mexican, or other foreign pharmacy.

5. Final considerations: shipping and more cost-saving ideas

When making cost comparisons, don't forget to include the cost of shipping.  While the price on one website might seem lower, shipping charges might make the drug much more expensive.

Here are some additional resources for saving money and making sure you order safely and securely.

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