Prescription drug prices rising at a record rate in America

Managing Drug Costs

The increasingly high cost of prescription drugs in the United States has been an issue for quite some time -- and the problem only seems to be getting worse.

Recent data reported by The Wall Street Journal shows that while food and alcohol prices have risen only three percent and clothing and accessories are up almost six percent, drug prices have increased at a staggering 10 percent in the last year.

SEE ALSO: Best practices to reduce your health care costs

This is not the first time drug prices have risen this much, however. Prescription prices in the American consumer market have inflated 10 percent or more for three years in a row. New York's Pfizer Inc. said U.S. pharma companies increasing the cost of prescriptions drugs helped drive $2 billion in revenue.

SEE ALSO: Pfizer to buy Anacor in $5.2 billion deal for access to eczema gel

Consumer Reports addressed the surging prices, reporting, "Our analysis suggests that high prices for generic and brand-name drugs stem in part from a battle over profit between mammoth industries—big pharma and insurance companies—with consumers caught in the middle."

Because many of these medications suffering from the price hike are vital to consumers, people are essentially forced to purchase the high-priced items.

RELATED: 21 hacks to reduce your health care this year

21 hacks to reduce your health care costs this year
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21 hacks to reduce your health care costs this year

1. Use Generics

If your doctor prescribes you a brand-name drug, ask whether it would be OK to use a generic substitute. Generics can be significantly less expensive, and often there’s no difference in outcome. Medicare enrollees who opted for generic drugs saved an average $1,923 per person in 2014, according to a report by the Generic Pharmaceutical Association.

Read: 10 Ways to Survive Rising Health Care Costs

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2. Stick With In-Network Providers

Your insurer has deals with certain providers that will give you the best price and guarantee that the treatment will be covered. Going out of network almost always means that you’ll have to pay higher prices. Out-of-network providers charge patients on average 300 percent more, or higher, than the Medicare rate for many procedures, according to an analysis by America's Health Insurance Plans, a trade association representing the health insurance industry.

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3. Ask for 90-Day Prescriptions

Breaking down the monthly cost, you’ll likely pay less for a prescription for 90 days' worth of medicine than you will for a 30-day supply. Plus, you’ll only have to pay your copay once instead of three times.

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4. Get Moving

In addition to causing poor health, living an inactive lifestyle can have a dramatic impact on your medical bills. Sedentary adults pay $1,500 more per year in health care costs than adults who are physically active, according to a recent study by health advocacy organization Trust for America’s Health.

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5. Get a Pet

Not only can it be rewarding to have a pet, it can have tangible health benefits, too. The decline in office visits and the reduced frequency of obesity associated with pet ownership can lead to a health care savings of about $86 per year, according to a recent report from the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative Foundation.

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6. Shop Around for Care

For elective procedures, shop around to find the best price, and quality, for a procedure within your insurance network. Start by checking Healthcare Bluebook to get a sense of what a fair price for the procedure might be in your geographic area. Then call around to a few providers, and ask for a quote based on your health insurance.

“Even if you have insurance and you play by the rules, you could still pay five to 10 times more than you should if you don’t shop for care,” said Jeff Rice, CEO of Healthcare Bluebook.

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7. Check Your Bill for Errors

Nearly half of Americans say that they’ve received an inaccurate health care bill, according to a Wolters Kluwer Health poll. Protect yourself from overpaying by carefully reviewing every bill that you receive and disputing any potential errors. If anything looks off, or you don't understand a charge, contact the provider.

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8. Carefully Select a Health Care Plan

When it comes to deciding on a health insurance plan, choosing the correct one upfront can potentially save you thousands in medical expenses throughout the year. However, more than 90 percent of workers say they choose the same benefits every year, and almost 80 percent spend less than an hour researching benefit options before making a selection, according to a recent Aflac poll.

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9. Take Advantage of Wellness Programs

Companies are increasingly investing in wellness programs that encourage their workers to take steps — such as signing up for biometric screenings, health assessments and physical activity programs —to monitor and improve their health. To increase employee participation in such programs, a growing number of employers are now offering incentives like money, gift cards, reduced health insurance premiums or contributions to an HSA or FSA, according to a report last year by the National Business Group on Health.

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10. If You're Eligible for an HSA, Use It

If you have a high-deductible health plan at work, then you can fund a health savings account to use for medical expenses. Unlike an FSA, your HSA money is yours to keep and grows over time, so even if you don’t use it this year, you can tap it for medical expenses in the future. For 2016, you can put up to $3,350 for an individual and $6,750 for a family into an HSA to use for medical expenses.

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11. Shop Around for Drugs

Just as medical providers offer different prices, so do drugstores. A recent search on for a 30-day supply of Lipitor found prices ranging from $10 to more than $90.

Retailers like Walgreens and Costco have prescription savings clubs, which offer a discount on generic prescriptions and often price match their competitors. The Walgreens program also provides a 10 percent discount on care at the store’s health clinics.

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12. Avoid the Emergency Room

Unless you have an actual emergency, stay away from the emergency room. Visiting a doctor’s office or urgent care clinic typically costs much less, and is often a less frenzied experience.

Choose carefully, though, because urgent care clinics that are owned by hospitals could charge the same rate as their parent company. “You’ll pay anywhere from four to 20 times the price by not going to your doctor,” said Adria Gross, CEO of Medwise Insurance Advocacy, which helps people navigate the medical claims system.

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13. Negotiate Your Bills

If you’re paying out of pocket for a procedure, contact a hospital’s billing department upfront to see whether there’s any wiggle room in the price. If you’ve already had a procedure, but can’t afford to pay the bill, there might also be an opportunity to negotiate the size of the bill, or set up a payment plan that makes it more affordable.

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14. Try Telemedicine

More insurers and companies are offering benefits that include telemedicine, in which you can consult with a doctor online or over the phone for minor ailments, at a fraction of the cost of an in-patient visit. The average telemedicine visit is estimated at $40 to $50, compared to an in-person acute care visit at an average estimated cost of $136 to $176, according to a study commissioned by the Alliance for Connected Care. Bonus: You don’t have to leave the house when you’re under the weather.

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15. Consider Medical Tourism

Some 750,000 Americans leave the country every year for health procedures that are cheaper elsewhere or not affordable in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The practice of “medical tourism,” as it’s known, includes risks, such as trouble communicating or less-safe practices. However, the Medical Tourism Association estimates that traveling for medical treatment can net savings of up to 90 percent.

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16. Bundle Your Costs

Once you’ve reached your deductible in one year, consider scheduling any covered, elective procedures to also take place that year. That way, you can potentially avoid having to pay the full deductible in two consecutive years.

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17. Deduct Your Medical Expenses

You qualify to write off your medical expenses on your taxes if your medical expenses are more than 10 percent of your adjusted gross income, or 7.5 percent if you’re age 65 or older. Qualified expenses include doctor visits and premiums, fertility treatments and hearing aids.

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18. Go to Labs for Blood Work

If your doctor orders blood work or other lab tests, first ask the doctor whether they’re medically necessary. If yes, get the work done in a standalone lab, where prices tend to be cheaper than what you’ll pay by getting work done in a hospital or some doctors' offices.

Asking your doctor for a written lab order and taking it to a national laboratory group, rather than an in-hospital lab facility, could save you up to 90 percent on costs, according to a 2014 study by health care consultant group Castlight.

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19. Insure Yourself

Under the Affordable Care Act, if you can afford health insurance but choose not to buy it, you’ll have to pay a fine when you file your federal tax returns for that year. If you're uninsured in 2016, you could pay a fine of 2.5 percent of your household income, or $695 per adult and $347.50 per child under 18 — whichever is highest. In addition, going uninsured means that one medical emergency could become a financial disaster for you, depleting your savings or causing you to run up unnecessary debt.

Read: 5 Tax Law Changes for 2016 You Need to Know

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20. Strategize With Your Spouse

If both you and your partner have access to health benefits at work, compare the plans offered by both companies. Find out which one offers the richest benefits at the best cost for your family, and whether you might be able to save money by being insured separately.

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21. Move Somewhere Cheaper

The cost of getting insurance via the Affordable Care Act marketplaces plan varies drastically depending on where you live, according to recent analysis by GOBankingRates. Buying a plan in New York, the most expensive state in the country for these costs, for example, would mean signing on for a $3,000 deductible and a $366 monthly premium. A similar plan in New Mexico, by contrast, features a $2,000 deductible and premiums of just $181 per month, less than half of those in a New York plan.

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In an op-ed on the The Huffington Post, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders addressed the ongoing conflict, writing, "a lifesaving product does no one any good if a patient cannot buy the medicine they need, and that is now happening far too often in the richest nation in the world."

While lobbyists and lawmakers are currently fighting for lower prescription costs, for many companies, raising prices is a major driver of growth.

RELATED: 9 ways to save money at CVS

9 ways to save money at CVS
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9 ways to save money at CVS

1. Join the CVS Rewards Program

ExtraCare is the CVS savings and loyalty rewards program that’s free to join. As a member, you can earn 2 percent back on most non-prescription purchases in the form of ExtraBucks, which are issued quarterly. You can also get ExtraBucks for certain items in the CVS weekly circular. Rewards are printed on your receipt at the time of purchase.

You can sign up online for ExtraCare or pick up an application in stores. Moreover, you can use the rewards for in-store and online purchases. Be sure to register your card at to get email offers and send CVS coupons and ExtraBucks rewards to your ExtraCare card. Finally, you should pay attention to the expiration dates on your rewards so you don’t lose them.

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2. Get Pharmacy and Health Rewards

To receive rewards for prescriptions, ExtraCare members must sign up for the ExtraCare Pharmacy & Health Rewards program, said money-saving expert Andrea Woroch. You’ll earn $5 in ExtraBucks rewards for every 10 prescriptions you fill. Additionally, you will be able to get rewards by filling prescriptions at Target, since CVS bought the big-box retailer’s pharmacy businesses at the end of 2015.

You can use rewards on most products in the stores and online — not just pharmacy items. Be aware that pharmacy credits expire at the end of each year, Woroch said.

Related: 10 Ways to Survive Rising Health Care Costs

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3. Register for the ExtraCare Beauty Club

According to Woroch, CVS customers can earn $5 in ExtraBucks for every $50 spent on beauty products and an additional $3 on their birthdays through the ExtraCare Beauty Club. However, you must register for this program separately. It’s free to join online at, and new members receive a 10 percent off pass for beauty products.

“As long as you stick to beauty items that are on sale and use coupons for these beauty items, it’s a great way to save and get something back for your purchases,” Woroch said about the program. Moreover, if you’re unhappy with a beauty product, you can return it for a full refund, thanks to CVS’s money-back guarantee — even after you opened and used it.

Related: How to Get Free Samples at Stores Like Sephora and Target

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4. Visit the ExtraCare Coupon Center Before Shopping

You should always make your first stop in CVS the ExtraCare Coupon Center, said Mary Hoover, creator of the money-saving blog Scan your CVS ExtraCare card at this red kiosk to receive store coupons, which can often be stacked with store promotions and manufacturer coupons for even more savings.

The kiosk will also provide you with a summary of any CVS coupons you received by email and had sent to your ExtraCare card. For added convenience, you can redeem your quarterly ExtraBucks at the ExtraCare Coupon Center.

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5. Stack Your Savings

“The way to save the most at CVS is by stacking coupons and current store promotions,” Hoover said.

Customers should start by checking the weekly ads for ExtraBucks offers that provide additional rewards on certain items. Next, look for manufacturer coupons for those items on sites such as and Be sure to check for store coupons and CVS ads that can be combined with the manufacturer coupons for even more savings, Hoover said.

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6. Save With Store-Brand Items

From household essentials and food items to beauty products and office supplies, CVS offers an extensive line of affordable generic-brand goods that are comparable to popular brand-name items and available at lower prices, Woroch said. She went on to reveal that customers could often save 20 percent to 30 percent on purchases, simply by purchasing the CVS brand.

Photo credit: Jeffrey B. Banke/

7. Get the App

It’s not enough to have a CVS rewards card. If you download the free CVS app, you can also get exclusive mobile offers, Woroch said.

You can link your ExtraCare card to the app simply by scanning it. According to Woroch, consumers can then send deals to their cards for instant redemption at checkout.

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8. Shop Online and Schedule Recurring Deliveries

You can get up to 20 percent off plus free shipping if you use the Ship & Save program to schedule regular, automatic deliveries of certain items. Although you can’t combine the discount with sales offers, you will get the sale price — if it’s greater — on your first order. Items that are eligible for Ship & Save will include an option to schedule a recurring delivery online.

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9. Get a Raincheck for Out-of-Stock Sale Items

If CVS marks down an item but it’s already sold out by the time you get to the store, you can secure a raincheck, according to — a site about saving money at the pharmacy chain. Simply let a sales clerk know that the item you desire isn’t available, and you’ll receive a slip of paper showing the sale price and the number of products you want.

Rainchecks never expire, according to So, you can bring your raincheck back when you want to get the sale price you missed out on the first time.

Keep Reading: 9 Secret Ways to Save Money at Kroger

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