Are You Paying Too Much for Prescription Drugs?

Thank you Pixaby for the image.

If you live in the United States, I’m sure you are aware of the high cost of medical care in this country. Although not all of us will need to see a doctor or go to the hospital this year, many – especially those of us who are older – regularly take one or more prescription drugs. For those with chronic illnesses, the cost of these medications can be quite high. Tragically, some people on limited incomes have found themselves having to choose between paying for their medications, paying rent, or buying food.

One of the major reasons for high prescription drug prices is the lack of price transparency. As consumers, we are at the end of a bloated, complicated, and opaque supply chain. Even when drug prices are reduced, the original price before the discount is often set artificially high.

Enter Mark Cuban and his new company CostPlus Drugs. Cuban, entrepreneur billionaire and owner of the Houston Mavericks, decided to approach the high cost of drugs as a business problem with a straightforward solution: total price transparency. His website, costplusdrugs.com, which debuted this January, has over 700 generic drugs listed, with more, including branded drugs, to come.

The pricing is as follows: cost of drug + 15% + $3 pharmacy fee + $5 shipping. It’s really that simple.  

I am lucky to have good health insurance with manageable deductibles. I take two generic medications daily and, although I have never struggled to pay for these prescriptions, I was curious to see if I’d save anything by ordering them through CostPlus Drug Co.   

I had recently ordered a 90-day supply of both medications from my usual online pharmacy and was billed $36.81, which included free shipping. If I had used CostPlus Drug Co., my cost would have been $25.90 (this includes $10 shipping, $5 for each drug).

Although these aren’t life-altering savings, if I didn’t have insurance or my insurance wasn’t as robust, the savings would have been greater. If you or a loved one take prescription medications – either regularly or for a temporary condition – you might want to check it out. The website is very user-friendly and full of information.

I realize that CostPlus Drugs isn’t the only company trying to bring down the high cost of drugs, but I like its ease of use and transparent pricing. And, because I support its mission, I will order my prescription drugs through them from now on.

Whatever you are paying, it makes sense to shop around first. And, if you like what you see, spread the word. If more people take control of the cost of their medications, Big Pharma might take notice.

Author: Janis @ RetirementallyChallenged.com

My blog is about travel, relationships, photography, and whatever else pops into my head (even, sometimes, issues surrounding retirement and aging).

89 thoughts on “Are You Paying Too Much for Prescription Drugs?”

      1. There needs to be more like him. I hope he adds some of the really high end drugs. A new eye drug my doc recommended if over $500 for a month’s supply. That’s crazy and it’s not for a life or death issue.

          1. It’s the same in Canada. It’s a new drug (so they can). Better insulin prices would be great. My cat used human insulin and it was pricey. I had to be creative.

  1. Wow, this is great information, Janis. I had not heard about costplusdrugs.com. Of course, like you, I only take 2 generics and they cost very little to me personally because Medicare covers them. But this make me wonder if Medicare would save money if I purchased through cost plus. I intend to investigate and, if you don’t mind, to share your post far and wide.

  2. Thanks for this. I’m always ready to compare drug prices. I made a list and compared prices. Our insurance is very good — almost all of our meds are free of charge for a 90 day supply.

  3. It’s always good to know about options, especially for people who must take a number of drugs or are in that insurance bind with lackluster coverage.

  4. As an Australian with access to subsidised pharmaceuticals through our universal health care scheme, Medicare, I can only sympathise and wonder when the seemingly avid Christian country of the US will stop seeing universal health care as socialism.

    1. It’s a mystery, Doug. So many of my friends who live in countries that see healthcare as a right, not a privilege, just shake their heads. I fear that as long as the drug companies, and medical industry in general, contribute so much to political candidates, this will continue. At least this company is trying in a small way to address a big problem.

      1. Yes, even with insurance. But I strongly advocate for our wonderful medical services. I tore my meniscus playing pickleball and developed blood clots as a result of the injury combined with the Covid vaccinations and possibly my cancer anti-hormone drug. A surgeon ( I hadn’t known previously) called me on my cell phone and told me he would take care of me after I got out of the hospital with pulmonary embolisms, pneumonia, and deep vein thrombosis. He did surgeries on my legs every month for eight months to remove all the clots so I could live a normal life. (and exercise and stay fit again!) I owe my life to the wonderful care I received last year after trying to stay fit. I owe my pocketbook to good insurance. 🙂

        1. I agree, we have fabulous medical care for those who can afford it. And most doctors are caring and highly skilled. I’m so happy that your doctor gave you the care you needed and that you got through your ordeal. By “better” I meant more affordable and equitable. No one should ever have to go into personal bankruptcy to save their child.

          1. How true. Now we have social Security and Humana, which is also working. My sister in law has Medicaid and it is such a hassle but it does pay well.

  5. Thanks for the info! I, like you, have very good insurance but will still check it out. Could be very helpful to friends and family with higher drug costs. And I’m with you on supporting this effort. Amazing with all those seeming add-ons that it still came out cheaper than your good insurance.

    1. (Sorry, you got stuck in my spam folder for a while.) I think it is a great way for some people to save some money, especially those who don’t have insurance or are underinsured. I have pretty good insurance (including Medicare) and I saved a little. I hope it helps!

  6. With this post, you did a public service to all your readers. Thank you. I use eye drops that are not available in generic form, and the pharmacist always asks ‘do you know what the copay is’? Why, yes, I do because it is so outrageous I couldn’t possibly forget. 🙂

    1. I hope Mr. Cuban is able to add more branded drugs soon. The pharmaceutical companies have people over a barrel when they have only once choice for a drug… and they know it. And, they fight tooth and nail to keep their drugs from becoming available as a generic.

  7. AARP has been working hard on behalf of all Americans, advocating changes that will lower the cost of prescription drugs and improve the transparency of the system. But, no matter what party is in control, the wheels of our political system turn so slowly (when at all) that it makes me want to take advantage of the “Bang Head Here” sign on the wall of my office. Good for Cuban! I hope he makes another billion with his venture. Thanks for reporting on this, Janis!

    1. As long as Big Pharma continues to pile Big Money into political campaigns, I doubt that anything will be done by the government. So far, all I’ve heard is lip service. I also applaud AARP and their efforts. What I like about Cuban’s approach is that he looked at it from a business perspective, not a political one.

  8. I hadn’t heard about this, Janis. It’s really great to know about other options. I use GoodRx for one of my medications because my doctor said it would be less expensive than if I used my insurance (she was right). In spite of the fact that my insurance company (Blue Cross) has a cost site for all the pharmacies in town, I’ve found it not to be accurate. So you’re right about it being opaque for sure. Three cheers to Mark Cuban. I’ll be checking out his site now. – Marty

  9. Thanks for sharing this, Janis. I was just having a discussion with a girlfriend about using the power of the purse to create change – spend our money in ways that express our values. Not only are you getting a less expensive prescription, you’re supporting a change-maker. Great info!

    1. I saw an interview with Cuban about the company and was so impressed with his philosophy. He said that while others have tried something similar, they often ended up being bought out by big pharmaceutical companies and then buried. He said that he has no interest in selling the company; his mission is to make prescription drugs more affordable. What a concept 🙂

  10. Thanks for the info – I’d never heard of this site. I’m a big Mark Cuban fan from “Shark Tank,” so, good for him for doing something about the exorbitant cost of prescription drugs!

  11. Beyond my concept. What basic health doesn’t cover then my insurance covers. I know there are drugs that aren’t covered even here and they can be pricey. I didn’t even know you could order drugs on line. Interesting.

    1. I understand that the drug companies need to cover the cost of the research and development of new drugs but often the price has so many add-ons that it becomes too expensive for many people. And, drugs that have been paid for many times over can still be pricey. I don’t know if Canada has online ordering options, but it sure makes things simpler.

  12. What I don’t like about the BC medical system is that doctors and pharmacies seem to be in collaboration to increase their profits. Here is an example from my own experience. For years, my previous family doctor prescribed a large batch of medication that lasted an entire year. Now the doctor prescribes the same pills for only 60 days. Then I have to see him again to get another prescription. That is an unnecessary and costly method and burdens the finances. Plus, when you live far from the centres, it involves extra travelling time.

    1. Interesting. I can usually get 90 days worth and several refills beyond that. I imagine that doctors want to see the patients periodically for certain conditions, but your example makes me wonder too. Visiting a doctor every two months just to get a refill seems like a waste of resources. I would think the doctor would have better things to do also.

  13. I am so glad you shared about your experience, Janis. I have been so curious since hearing about Mark Cuban’s effort. I think he’s done something rather wonderful. 🙂

      1. I only recently have started hearing about Mark Cuban’s pharmacy effort and I was so impressed. Someone really using their celebrity and wealth to do something so incredibly helpful. It’s a generous effort. I think word of mouth will really spread the publicity. 🙂

  14. What a great idea! The drug companies shouldn’t have a monopoly on drugs, as that only encourages high prices. I’ve been lucky that the drugs that I need to take on occasion are very moderately priced (except for a nasal inhaler that went from $30 to $200, at which point I quit taking it…..that’ll show ’em!) What I don’t understand is how some drugs are free (some of the drugs my husband was taking during chemo) and others are crazy high!

  15. Janis, this is great information that you’ve provided for your readers. We don’t take prescription drugs, but if we should ever need to, I’m glad to know that this option is available. I know that drug companies need to recoup the money they’ve put into research, and they’re entitled to make a profit, but it’s unconscionable that some people have to choose between basic life necessities and necessary medications. It’s shameful, really. Yay for Mark Cuban!

    1. I think most people want the drug companies to make a reasonable profit (and keep researching) but the pricing seems all out of whack. I love how Cuban has looked at the issue as a business problem and has figured out how to make a slight profit and give consumers an alternative.

  16. Thank for sharing, Janis. This is an interesting alternative that I’m sure will help out a bunch of people. We are fortunate that health care is covered for us in MA and we only pay the pharmacy price of $3 for each prescription. In general, we don’t need many drugs, which is nice. If only Mark Cuban (I assume he is one of the sharks from Shark Tank) would offer this solution for dog meds as well. 🙂

  17. Every once in a while I’m reminded of how lucky and grateful I am that I do not require any prescription drugs. This is one of those times. This was a great post, Janis. It’s one more reminder to stay informed and shop around.

  18. Thanks for sharing this / I will pass it on to good I know who take prescription drugs (I spend a lot on my vitamins – please let me know if Cuban offers anything for that m) ha!

  19. This is a very interesting article about drug pricing (https://axenehp.com/us-pharmaceutical-pricing-overview/). I looked at my drug on the Mark Cuban site. Yes, it would cost less (if in fact they sold to Canadians.) On the other hand, what I spend on this drug helps to support my local drug store and the expert advice I get from a trained pharmacist who I have known for 30 years! I also have the confidence that the pharmacist and distributor of my drug is monitoring and reporting adverse effects, complaints, etc to Canada’s Regulatory Body.
    While I can certainly appreciate the benefits of lower drug costs, it will be interesting to see if over time there are unintended consequences to the on-line sale of drugs.

    1. You make good points, Margy. We see evidence of unintended consequences all the time (and wonder why we never saw them coming 🙂 ). At least in the US, online drug sales are common. My insurance company contracts (at least I assume that’s how it happens) with an online retailer and I order my 90-day supplies through them. I’m assuming the idea is to save themselves money. It’s easy and convenient for me but, you are right, the only “expert” advice I get is the pamphlet that comes with each prescription in the bag.

      1. The big plus of cheaper drugs is, of course, for people who need them but could not otherwise afford them. That certainly improves one consequence!

  20. That’s interesting to know Janis – thank you for passing this info along. I am lucky that I am not on any prescription medications at this time, but I am going to pass the info along to some friends that are on multiple meds. Every penny counts these days, especially with the 41-year high inflation we have today.

      1. That is valuable info you shared Janis – most of the people I know are on meds; I am hoping a multi-vitamin and cod liver oil capsules keep me humming for as long as possible.

  21. Very interesting, Janis. I had heard that this was coming, but didn’t realize it was active yet. I am covered by my health insurance, but I may check it out just out of curiosity. If only we could get to a point where the manufacturers’ prices are better controlled. The high cost of life-saving drugs is so frustrating, especially when there is no logical reason for it (like with insulin). There are laws in some states, including mine, that limit the copayment amount for insulin, but they do nothing to bring down the manufacturer’s charges to the insurer or the uninsured.

    1. I think it’s the lack of transparency that is the most frustrating and why I like this option so much. I don’t think anyone is against the drug manufacturer making a reasonable profit, but some of the profits are obscene. I’m sure Big Pharma doesn’t like that Cuban has made the actual cost – at least of some drugs – available to the consumer. I would think that the insurance companies would like this too.

  22. This is fabulous information, and I’m going to go into the website and check it out. My guy and I never needed prescription meds until recently, and now, well, we are forever grateful that we have good insurance, but we both often say how badly we feel for people who don’t. But even with insurance, some of the costs of meds are out-of-this-world. An eye med my doc recommended was about $1,000/month! (Insurance says not to it.) So I balked and my doc prescribed another one, which is still $300/every 2 months. That’s a lotta money. Yay for entrepreneurs like Mark Cuban who is trying to make a difference.

    1. Prescription prices are crazy and no one (other than the drug companies) truly understands how they come up with what they charge. Although Cuban’s company doesn’t offer every drug – yet – at least what they do offer has transparent pricing. I may be a bit cynical but I wonder why a doctor would prescribe such a high priced medication. Are they so out of touch with the cost, do they get a kickback, or?

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