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Combination Drugs: More Convenient but More Expensive?

by Elizabeth Davis on February 11, 2015 at 12:42 pm

One pill is easier to take than two, right? Easier to remember, easier to swallow, and there’s evidence that some combination medications can more effectively control symptoms—prescriptions don’t work if you don’t take them.

But what about cost? Some cheap generic combinations work well together to treat common conditions like high blood pressure, and taking both medications together can cut down on side effects. Some of these like lisinopril/hctz or losartan/hctz even appear on pharmacy discount generic lists for under $5 per month. These are the cases where you want to go for the combination pill as prescribed.

However, there are some combinations you may want to avoid if you don’t want a big bill at the pharmacy.

Duexis, for example, also aims to ease side effects by combining two medications: ibuprofen (Advil) for pain, and famotidine (Pepcid) to prevent the stomach-related side effects that can sometimes come with taking NSAIDs like ibuprofen. The combination itself works well, but if you don’t have insurance or your plan doesn’t cover it, a 30-day supply (90 tablets) can cost over $1400—even with a GoodRx discount. Even with insurance, your co-pay could be over $100.

Another option: ibuprofen and famotidine are both available over-the-counter (without a prescription) or as cheap generics. If you buy over-the-counter, your total for both could be under $10 per month.

As always, you’ll want to talk to your doctor to make sure you’re getting the right dose, but $10 per month for two pills vs $1400 for one seems like an obvious choice.

Bottom line? Combination meds can be great, but keep an eye on the cost, and be aware of alternatives. Also know that GoodRx will show you a savings tip on drugs like Duexis where you could save big by taking the parts of the combination separately.

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