Saving money on prescription drugs: Go generic

April 12, 2013 at 10:28 AM ET

Prescription drug prices are increasing fast than inflation, which means some Americans can no longer afford to pay for them.

What’s driving costs: Brand-name drugs paid for by insurance that are often heavily advertised.

But there are ways to save, thanks in part to the burgeoning generic drug industry. Generic drugs can be made by multiple companies, which compete on price. Four of every five prescriptions are for generics, which can cost one-fourth or less than the brand name version.

Experts recommend shopping around, as some of the big drug store chains and big discount retailers offer less expensive prices, especially on the most widely prescribed drugs.

Some people may not need pills to mediate mild depression, says Dr. Gail Saltz, a psychiatrist. Saltz tells TODAY that some can forego the medicine – she says pills are as effective as placebos for mild depression – and focus on getting enough exercise and the right social support.   

“Therapy or learning particular coping skills can not only be an effective treatment, it can also be protective against future relapse of the problem,” she said. “The ‘cost’ of not doing these treatments in terms of future ability to function, lost work time, meds taken that may result in complications, is substantial.” 

Other tips include asking a doctor for a free sample if only a small amount of medication is needed. Always ask for a generic prescription and shop around.