Are Rx drug coupons a good deal?

Are Rx drug coupons a good deal?
With some prescription co-pays now topping $90 a month, a lot of people are snatching up prescription coupons offered by drug manufacturers.

While that might seem like a wise move, experts from Consumer Reports warn you to be careful.

Before heading to the pharmacy, more and more people are heading online to find a coupon. Many big name drug makers offer coupons and discounts.

According to a Consumer Reports survey, nearly 19 million people who regularly take medication used a drug couple last year. But that's not necessarily a good deal.

"Just because a brand-name drug is available with a coupon doesn't mean it's your least expensive option. Less expensive generics may be available that are equally effective," said Dr. John Santa of Consumer Reports.

And insurance co-pays for generics are often much lower -- sometimes one tenth the cost.

Then there's Lipitor, which heavily advertises its money-saving offers. For people already taking Lipitor, Consumer Reports says the co-pay card can be a real money saver, at least for now.

"There is a generic for Lipitor, but at this point it's just about as expensive. So if you qualify for the four-dollar Lipitor program, it's a good deal," Santa said.

But, as with many drug coupons, you don't qualify if you're covered by Medicaid, Medicare, or other federal or state health care programs.

"For people without insurance, it is possible to use many of these coupons," Santa said. "But you're still going to pay a lot of money out of pocket."

The best way to save on prescriptions is to see if your doctor can prescribe a less expensive medicine.

Consumer reports found good discounts on many generic prescription drugs at Walgreen's, RiteAid, CVS, Walmart, and other major supermarkets and retailers, including Target.