Dollars & Health: Cashing in on generics

You hear a lot about drug prices going up and up, but consider the case of Ann Stewart of Mattapan, Mass., who faced a price of $146 for her diabetes medicine. After a transfer of prescriptions, she's now paying $4. And then there's financially strapped Glenn Funchess, a cancer patient in Rochester, N.Y., who got the cost of his medications drop by $300 a month.

And finally, there's me, a supposedly savvy health care journalist, who took months to realize that taking a different cholesterol drug would cut the co-pay by $50.

These savings came from switching from brand-name drugs to generics. An increasing number of prescriptions are generics – now 70% of the total filled. They cost up to 90% less than brand names, and for some, it can make the difference between taking a medication -- or skipping it because it's unaffordable.

To take advantage of these bargains, you should be pro-active about prescriptions, and here's how you can do it: