The latest updates on prescription drugs and ways to save from the GoodRx medical team

2015 In Review: The Good(Rx) and Bad

by Elizabeth Davis on December 29, 2015 at 5:00 am

2015 was another tough year for American’s health care budgets. Insurance premiums increased, coverage was dropped for a number of important drugs, and overall we’re spending more for our health care.

Don’t break out the antidepressants yet—it’s not all bad news. A number of important drugs went generic, which will generally mean huge savings and lower costs. Plus, a large number of drugs actually decreased in price. (Yes, really!)

Here are 5 big trends GoodRx observed in 2015.

1. Some drugs lost insurance coverage…

The two largest prescription insurance companies stopped covering a number of popular drugs in 2015, including Viagra and the weight-loss med Qsymia. Most plans are also only covering one of the new hepatitis C meds—for example, Express Scripts now excludes all options except Viekira Pak. To learn more, we’ve got the full list of excluded drugs here.

(For a deeper look at drug coverage changes, here’s a great article.)

2. …but several major drugs went generic in 2015.

Generic drugs are cheaper than their brand-name counterparts. In 2015, fewer generics were released than in other recent years—but generic releases for some big name brand drugs still made a difference this year. Generics tend to offer significant savings, and filling a generic instead of a brand can mean a difference of hundreds of dollars no matter how you pay.

Here’s a list of drugs where a generic version became available in 2015:

  • Abilify (aripiprazole), released in May, was another major generic out this year. Abilify has been increasing in price for quite some time now, and while the generic is still expensive, it does offer significant savings over the brand.
  • Neupogen (Zarxio), the first-ever biosimilar (a generic version of a type of specialty drug known as a biologic) was released in October. It’s used to help boost your white blood cell count to prevent infections during cancer treatments.

3. Prices are going down (yay!)—but you’re still paying more (boo!).

Huge price hikes like Daraprim made the news this year—for good reason. But you may not have known that the cash prices on many popular drugs actually dropped in 2015.

An internal analysis of GoodRx prices shows that 30 of the 50 most popular generic drugs actually decreased in price in 2015.

Even better, these drugs cover almost every common condition—from mental health (fluoxetine / Prozac, duloxetine / Cymbalta), to heart conditions (atorvastatin / Lipitor, losartan / Cozaar), and allergies or asthma (montelukast / Singulair).

Popular generics with price decreases in 2015*
Drug Name Percent Decrease Current GoodRx Price
fluoxetine (Prozac) 30.4% $5
montelukast (Singulair) 19.9% $18
duloxetine (Cymbalta) 10.4% $38
atorvastatin (Lipitor) 8.2% $13
losartan (Cozaar) 4.8% $9

*Prices as of December 16, 2015, using the GoodRx Fair Price for a 30-day supply.

4. The world is going high-deductible

In case you’ve been hiding under a rock, you probably know that insurance plans are covering less, and deductibles are rising. Even with lower cash prices, you may be paying more out of pocket for the same prescriptions.

Perhaps the biggest trend in insurance in 2015 is higher deductibles. Most employers are either already offering (18%) or considering offering (44%) a high deductible plan as the only option for their employees.

5. The Affordable Care Act offers limited coverage

Buying insurance through the Affordable Care Act exchanges means you’re even more likely to pay a larger share of your healthcare costs. Last year, over 65% of people who purchased a plan through a state or federal marketplace chose a silver plan.

Under a silver plan in 2014, you were responsible for about 30% of your total health care costs, and the average deductible was $2907 per person. If you chose a bronze plan, that goes up to 40% of your total health care costs, with an average deductible of $5081 per person.

More and more people are choosing these plans—or having them offered as the only option—and that means you’re covering more of your own health care costs overall.

So what’s in store for 2016?

Will the cost of your health insurance increase? The short answer is yes, but it’s complicated. It’s estimated that premiums for plans through your employer will increase by about 4.2%. However, if you’re getting insurance through an ACA marketplace, changes to the available tax credits could mean you’ll pay less in 2016 depending on your income and other factors.

There will be more generics released—especially near the end of 2016. Though none of these are guaranteed, we may see generic versions of some big drugs including Crestor (rosuvastatin) for high cholesterol, Gleevec (imatinib) for chemotherapy, and Nuvigil (armodafinil) for sleep disorders. A long-awaited generic version of albuterol inhaler Proair HFA may also be on the market by the end of the year, along with Advair Diskus (fluticasone propionate and salmeterol) and Flovent Diskus (fluticasone propionate) inhalers.

We’ll also continue to spend more on health care in the US. The expected increase isn’t as large as in 2015, but costs are still going up. Spending on private health care is predicted to go up 5.4% each year from 2016 to 2024 (Medicare spending will grow slightly more at 7.3% per year).

Overall, 2015 was a mixed year for health care. Happy holidays and we look forward to helping you save in 2016.


Holiday Nausea and Stomachaches: What You Can Do

by The GoodRx Pharmacist on December 22, 2015 at 4:12 pm

Holiday season is in full swing, and that means that many of you will be enjoying plenty of delicious foods and holiday treats over the next week or two. However, if you aren’t used to all the rich or sugary food, you may end up with a stomach-ache or nausea.

There’s no need to let a sour stomach ruin your holiday though—be prepared, and know what you can do to help yourself (and your family or friends) feel better if you overindulge this year.

What are some examples of over-the-counter products that can be used to get rid of an upset stomach?

You have a few basic options:

  • Pepto Bismol products for upset stomach, nausea, indigestion, diarrhea, or heartburn
  • Maalox Total Relief for upset stomach, nausea, indigestion, gas, or heartburn
  • Cola syrup for upset stomach due to nausea
  • Emetrol for upset stomach and nausea
  • Tums for upset or sour stomach
  • Rolaids for sour stomach

Each of these medications have many variations available to treat your upset stomach or nausea. For example, Maalox Total Relief has the same exact ingredient (bismuth subsalicylate) as Pepto Bismol Maximum Strength.

If you have any questions about which OTC med is right for you, always ask your doctor or pharmacist.

Is there anything I should know about Pepto Bismol products?

Yes, and it’s kind of out there. Pepto Bismol (bismuth subsalicylate) can turn your tongue and stool black. It’s a temporary (and harmless) side effect, but it can last several days after you stop taking Pepto Bismol. Exactly how long will depend on your individual age, bowel habits, and the amount of Pepto you’ve used.

I thought Tums and Rolaids were for heartburn?
Tums and Rolaids treat heartburn, but can also be used for sour or upset stomach. Both neutralize stomach acid and offer fast short-term relief.

Having trouble with heartburn instead? Check out our recent post on how to handle holiday heartburn.

What is cola syrup and where do I find it?

Cola syrup is an old-time remedy used for nausea with an upset stomach. Cola syrup can sometimes be found in the stomach aisle of your grocery store or pharmacy, but if you can’t find it, ask at the pharmacy counter as they may have it in stock or it can typically be ordered for next day pick up.

Isn’t Emetrol for kids only?

No—Emetrol can be used by kids and adults. It’s strong enough for adults and safe for children ages 2 and up.

How does Emetrol work?
Emetrol is also used for nausea and upset stomach, it works by calming the stomach muscle contractions that can lead to vomiting—unlike products that coat the stomach (for example, Pepto and Maalox).

If you want more information on Emetrol, check out the official website.


New High-Dose Flu Vaccine for 2016

by The GoodRx Pharmacist on December 18, 2015 at 3:13 pm

For the 2015 – 2016 flu season, there was only one type of high-dose flu shot available. However, next year a new high-dose vaccine, Fluad, will offer another option.

Isn’t one kind of high-dose vaccine enough? Not always. Later in flu season, you can still get vaccinated, but pharmacies may run out of the less common kinds of flu vaccine—like the nasal spray, small needle, or the high-dose shot. Another high-dose flu shot should help with availability for the 2016 – 2017 flu season.

Is there anything unique about Fluad?

Yes. Fluad is the 1st FDA approved flu vaccine that contains an adjuvant. Adjuvants are incorporated into some vaccines to help improve the immune response of the vaccinated individual. It is also a high-dose vaccine, which is recommended for anyone 65 and older. The only other high-dose flu shot currently available is Fluzone High-Dose.

Is Fluad currently available in other countries?

Yes. Fluad was approved in 1997 almost 20 years ago for use in Italy. Fluad is currently approved and available for use in 38 countries including Canada and 15 European countries.

Are there any similar vaccines for those 65 years of age and older?

Yes. Fluzone High-Dose (Fluzone HD) was the first flu vaccine specially formulated for people 65 and older. For more information on Fluzone HD, check out the official website here.

How is Fluad used?
Fluad is given by a health care professional—often by your pharmacist or at your doctor’s office—as a 0.5 mL intramuscular injection into the upper arm.

How will Fluad be available?
Fluad will be available in a pre-filled syringe each with a single 0.5 mL dose.

When was Fluad approved?
Fluad was approved by the FDA on November 24, 2015.

When will Fluad be available?
Fluad is expected to be available in time for the 2016 – 2017 flu season.

What are the side effects of Fluad?

The most common side effects of Fluad include injection site pain and tenderness, muscle aches, headache, and fatigue.

Want more information

See the press announcement from the FDA regarding Fluad here.


A New Year Means New GoodRx Prices

by Elizabeth Davis on December 17, 2015 at 2:59 pm

Happy New Year from GoodRx!

On January 1, 2016, the price you pay for some prescriptions may change.

The price changes aren’t huge, but we always want you to know that the price you receive may be a little different than previous refills.

What do I need to do?

To ensure that you receive the lowest price, we recommend:

  • Go to GoodRx (www.goodrx.com or our mobile app).
  • Look up your prescription.
  • If we have a coupon at your pharmacy, present that coupon to the pharmacist at the time of your next fill.
  • If the pharmacist provides a different price, ask them to double-check that they have the current coupon on file.

That’s it!

I found a new, better price elsewhere. How do I switch pharmacies?

If you find that a new pharmacy has a lower price, it’s easy to transfer your prescription. Simply call your new pharmacy and ask them to transfer your prescription for you. Remember to provide a new coupon if it’s a discount price.

As a reminder, we always recommend checking GoodRx every time you fill (or refill). We never want there to be any surprises when you pick up your prescription. Our prices are updated daily, and it’s always possible that another pharmacy or coupon may offer you a lower price the next time you fill.

Questions? Let us know!


Is Metformin the Key to Preventing Aging?

by Dr. Sharon Orrange on December 15, 2015 at 1:34 pm

Metformin is an inexpensive generic drug widely used for type 2 diabetes in the U.S. Although it only costs pennies, it is now featured on the World Health Organization’s list of “essential medications.” Now, metformin (the brand is Glucophage) is also being studied for cancer and aging prevention.
You may know that metformin works to lower blood sugar and promote weight loss, but these 10 metformin discoveries may still surprise you.
Origin
1.  Metformin (Glucophage) is derived from a plant, the French Lilac.
Diabetes
2.  Metformin helps in diabetics by suppressing hepatic (liver) gluconeogenesis—making sugar. So it reduces glucose production.
3.  In the long run, it also works to change your cholesterol (lipid) metabolism for the better, and increase insulin sensitivity.
The Heart
4.  There is mounting evidence that metformin can offer protection against heart disease in diabetic patients. In a landmark study, metformin lowered the risk of heart attack by 39% compared to other traditional diabetes medications over a period of 10 years.

5.  Metformin has anti-clotting (anti-thrombotic) properties and prevents plaque from forming in your arteries.
Cancer
6.  In diabetics, metformin has been found to have a protective role against many cancers: liver, colon, pancreas, ovarian and esophageal.
7.  There is evidence that metformin improves response to radiation and chemotherapy for some cancers.
Aging
8.  Though not yet studied in humans, several studies on rodents suggest a life-extending role for metformin. Metformin given to mice late in life was shown to increase life span.
9.  How? It has to do with the relationship between the gut, aging, and metformin. The intestine is home to the majority of the microbes that inhabit our body. The gut microbiota (gut flora) act as an important biomarker for health.
10.  It’s possible that metformin alters the microbiota in a positive way. How gut bacteria promotes longevity is debated but evidence suggests there may be an interaction between the immune system, cell protective mechanisms, and metabolic changes.
Dr O.


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