Prescription Drug Discount Cards and a GoodRx Review
Migraine medications are often so expensive that many patients can’t afford the medications they need. One study found that 37% of patients didn’t fill triptan prescriptions because of the cost.1 Prescription drug discount cards, like GoodRx, RxRelief, and NACo, can be a great help toward making medications affordable.
What are prescription discount cards?
Prescription discount cards aren’t insurance, nor are they coupons. Card providers negotiate a bulk discount on medications just like insurance companies do. The discounts can be substantial – cards typically advertise up to 70%-80% off retail prices. The actual amount depends on the medication, the pharmacy you use, and even the month.
Discount card providers get a lower rate than the cash price partly because pharmacies benefit from new customers, building customer loyalty, and selling non-prescription items when you come in for a prescription. The card companies also make money from transaction fees they charge the pharmacy and (for some) selling your information to marketers.2 To keep a company from selling your information, never register to receive a card or give them your mailing address and personal details.
My Experience with GoodRx
I was thrilled to find GoodRx because their website lists the price of specific drugs in your area. Most discount card websites will tell you you’ll save “up to x%” of a drug’s price, but no specifics.
In an Oct. 3, 2014 search for naratriptan (generic Amerge) on GoodRx, the price for nine 2.5 mg tablets ranged from $50.41 at Walmart to $84 at CVS. Around that same time, my insurance was charged $396.78 for the same amount.
If this seems to good to be true, know that sometimes it is! In a six-month period of getting all my and my husband’s medications with discount cards – an average of seven per month – I never once paid the price listed on GoodRx. When I got Wellbutrin at Walmart, I saved a few dollars over the GoodRx price, but the vast majority of the time I was asked to pay as much as $50 more than the price quoted on the website.
This happened month after month with different drugs in different pharmacies and even different states. The pharmacists I queried said that the prices fluctuate monthly and that GoodRx doesn’t keep the website updated. (Interesting that the prices on the website are almost always lower than what I was asked to pay at the pharmacy.) In email correspondence, a GoodRx representative said that some pharmacists don’t honor the GoodRx price. Given that I discussed this with no less than 15 different pharmacists in different stores and different states—and that most were willing to run three or four other drug discount cards to get me a lower price—I’m suspicious of GoodRx’s claims.
Whether the pharmacies or GoodRx are to blame, it seems highly unlikely that you’ll get the price quoted on the website without substantial time and effort. The GoodRx representative told me that customers should have the pharmacist call the number on the coupon. This might result in you being charged the lower price, but it might not. If it doesn’t, GoodRx asks users to submit the drug and pharmacy information to them and they will look into pricing issues. GoodRx will not refund you the difference, but say that your pharmacy might.3
In my six months of GoodRx use, I did save a considerable amount of money over the cash price, but spent at least 10 hours a month driving around from one pharmacy to the next and trying multiple discount drug cards. If GoodRx’s website had accurate quotes, I would have been OK with paying a little more money. I just wish I had known before I got to the pharmacy. Consistently being told by pharmacies that the GoodRx price was too low made me suspicious of GoodRx. It felt like they were getting customers in the door through the prices on the website, while knowing customers would probably pay the higher price.
The most frustrating part? It worked. Despite my distrust and anger, I still use GoodRx for triptans that my insurance doesn’t cover. I continue to tell people about the company with the caveat that the price quoted is probably too good to be true. Why? The website at least gives a ballpark price of the prescription, which other cards don’t do, and even the higher prices are usually lower than the other discount cards. I detest supporting a company that consistently gives inaccurate information. But not so much that I can stomach paying the cash price for triptans.
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