Save on Prescriptions, Go Generic

It’s your doctor’s job to help keep you healthy, and maybe even save your life. But when they pull out their prescription pad, it is up to you to save yourself money.

According to a recent Consumer Reports poll, many doctors keep their patients in the dark when it comes to prescription drug costs, and often fail to discuss cheaper alternatives, such as lower doses or using generic versions of a drug.

Of the 2,004 adults polled by in January, 66% percent said that they only found out the cost of a prescribed drug when they picked it up at the pharmacist's counter. Only 4% of those polled had even had a conversation about medication costs with their doctor. At the same time,  almost a third said they would disobey doctor's orders, skip doses or take smaller doses, in order to cut costs.

There is an easier and safer way to save: It starts by asking your doctor questions before accepting a prescription.

According to David Certner, legislative policy director for AARP, consumers should ask about cheaper, generic formulations of drugs, rather than the name brands. For example, you might ask about Lansoprazole instead of Prevacid, Divalproex Sodium instead of Depakote ER (Stock Quote: ABT) or Topiramate instead of Topamax.

They cost less, but they are just as effective.“I think that there is a perception that generic drugs are inferior,” says Certner. “But they are clinically identical to the name-brand drugs and they are all approved by the FDA.”

If you’re looking to maintain a healthy body and a healthy bank account, keep these questions in mind the next time you visit your doctor:

1. Is there a cheaper generic substitute? You don’t have to take risks with your health in order to save a bundle on medication. Savvy consumers can find a list of generic drugs by logging on to WebMd’s RxList or by visiting Consumer Reports' guide to prescription drugs for less to find ratings for generic alternatives.