5 Ways to Save on Medical Costs by Going Generic

Our healthcare costs are rising at a slower pace largely because we've caught on to generic drugs.


The amount of money that we shell out for healthcare certainly isn't shrinking but, hey, at least it increased at a slower pace last year, the slowest in a decade. That's according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which found that our health expenses only increased by only 6.1 percent in 2007 compared with 6.7 percent in 2006.

The reason? Many of us have switched to generic drugs, particularly as the patents have expired in recent years on some of the pricier blockbuster brand-name drugs like the cholesterol-lowering statin Zocor and the antidepressant Zoloft. I, too, made a huge cost-saving switch this year. After blogging about drugstores offering steep discounts on generic birth control pills, I decided to switch to a generic version of a brand-name product I was using.

I thought I wouldn't save much, since my health insurance provides partial coverage for contraceptives, but boy, was I wrong: My monthly cost is now about $2.50 compared with the $20 I was paying previously. That adds up to a yearly savings of $210.

I've now become a true convert to all things generic—at least when it comes to drugstore products. (I'll never settle for a knockoff Coach purse.) So I took a look around my neighborhood CVS to see what I could save on over-the-counter products:

1. Yeast infection treatments: Monistat one-day pack costs $21.99 at CVS, compared with $12.99 for the CVS generic version that comes as a three-day pack. Of course, many women would say it's worth it to pay the extra $9 for two fewer days of messy treatments.

2. Migraine pain relievers: I used to fork over $5.29 for 24 caplets of Excedrin Migraine, but now I pay $3.99 for the 24 caplets in CVS Migraine Relief. Both contain a combination of aspirin, acetaminophen, and caffeine, which relieves those occasional headaches that used to leave me bedridden.

3. Menstrual cramp relief: That Motrin will set you back $9.99 for 100 caplets compared with $6.99 for generic ibuprofen.

4. Non drowsy allergy relief: As appealing as that blue sky on the Claritin package is, a 20-count pill pack costs $18.99 compared with $11.99 for the CVS generic version—a 37 percent savings.

5. Skin and hair care: Generic body washes, dandruff shampoos, and skin cleansers provide 26- to 80- percent savings. You may, though, still want to splurge on the pricier face creams that use exotic ingredients—see a list in this previous post—since generic versions may not contain enough of the active ingredients to really smooth out those fine lines and wrinkles.