Medicine costs
Alamy
Do you want to pay less for your medications? Of course you do! Unfortunately, some pharmaceutical companies are doing everything they can to deprive us of cheaper options.

However, a recent Supreme Court ruling gives regulators and consumer advocates a chance to fight back.

Pharmaceutical companies keep cheaper options off the market by using a "carrot and stick" approach that includes the threat of a lawsuit for rivals introducing cheaper variations and the promise of hefty payoffs to rivals for keeping their generics off the market.

Here's how it works.

Generic-drug producers can sell their own versions of a drug that is still under patent, if they can show that the patent is invalid or that their generic version does not violate the patent. This strategy offers generic-drug companies the opportunity to introduce their versions before patents expire -- giving them added time to secure valuable market share. On the other hand, that approach brings risks of lawsuits as the proprietary drug companies attempt to defend their patents.

To prevent competitors from attempting that, proprietary-drug producers sometimes offer "pay-for-delay settlements" in lieu of pursuing patent infringement lawsuits. These settlements remove the threat of losses to the generic-drug company if it lost the lawsuit, as well as offer payments (sometimes called "reverse payments") to generic-drug makers to keep their products off the market.

Avoiding lawsuits and raking in money to not do something? Sounds like a win-win for everyone. Everyone except you, the consumer.

Possible Antitrust Violations

According to Monday's Supreme Court ruling, these practices may sometimes constitute antitrust violations -- particularly when the payments prevent competitors from introducing generic products into the market even when the proprietary-drug company's patent is invalid, or isn't in fact violated by the generic drug.

In such cases, these reverse payments can cost consumers a great deal, as they lose out on the opportunity to acquire generic drugs at as little as 15 percent of the cost of their branded counterparts. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission claims that these settlements cost taxpayers and consumers $3.5 billion a year in higher drug costs.

Monday's ruling permits regulators and consumer advocates to sue drug makers over this practice and leaves it to the courts to review the circumstances on a case-by-case basis.

How You Can Save Money Now

The new ruling arguably puts regulators and consumer advocacy groups in a better position to improve consumer access to cheaper drugs, but what can you do to reduce your medical tab now? Here are a few tips:

1. Always ask about generic options. When your doctor prescribes you a brand-name drug, ask if any generic options are available. Doctors will still sometimes prescribe brand-name drugs even after generic alternatives have been introduced into the market.

2. Ask for free samples. Pharmaceutical companies often provide doctors with promotional samples of their brand-name products. If you're stuck with a brand-name prescription, see if you can score some of these.

3. Find cheaper suppliers. According to a study mentioned in a 2011 Consumer Reports article, the prices for brand-name drugs vary by an average of 29 percent. While the article noted HealthWarehouse.com as the cheapest option and Publix as the most expensive, it recommends calling around to find the cheapest supplier for your prescriptions.


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MOONDOGGIE

oh i beat them at their own game ,one med i take cost 232.00 at local super market pharmacy which is cheaper than big name pharmacy's i can buy the same drug same # of pills for 18.00 on line so please do your homework before filling your prescriptions don't let these drug companies rip u off .or your insurance company

June 24 2013 at 6:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jerradel

Is this not the same as a \"KICK BACK ?\"

June 24 2013 at 5:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
meanderinn

Funny story , my daughter that was just turning 18 went to UVA , virginia ,for a broken wrist .I went with her and have to face what a liar that try to screw a kid done , a doctor .Looking at the X rays every one can see that the fracture was clean and just a cast shall be ok .What the UVA Doctor was preaching to my daughter is to have an operation to inflate is pocket . As I try to talk to him and explain my feelings that an opeartion was not only necessary but negative , he turn to my daugther and told her " you are now 18 and you can do what you want and you dnt have to listen to your father " What a jerk ...the cost at the end only for a broken wrist and wihout surgery was $ 4800,00 ..just thing if the doctor instead to get $ 500,00 for visit how much he shall have in his pocket , about $ 4000,00 more ..And this our great system coverup by our politician ,Taken advantage of kids ..The doctor shall be out of work ..a little jerk ...Lucky I dnt kick his ass ....So this is UVA HOSPITAL IN VIRGINIA ....Love my dog more and more .So if you have to go to UVA hospitall in Virginia good luck ........

June 24 2013 at 5:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
meanderinn

What is new ...people we are taken as a milk cow by every one ,nothing new , they have all the rights dictated by lobbiest and our corrupted system from the top ...there are not the only one's , hospitals,doctors,dentist,vets,the congress and more ...This is the society that people vote for , so take your own pills .....

June 24 2013 at 4:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
liondog96

I can't get the pain medication I need for my disability so I can not support them anyway. What a worthless government to ban my Oxycodone pills. BUT, now I have an excuse for not being treated so now they can pay my disability....Ha Ha!

June 24 2013 at 4:19 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Dina

Yes it is the big pharmaceuticals who pay drug reps $100K a year and a car to drive around in and the list goes on and on.The reps give freebies to family members at our expense. Then you have the pharmacies like CVS especially like buying from a jewelry store and no one stops this mess. The politicians are in bed with all these idiots and we have to pay the price for prescription drugs.

June 24 2013 at 3:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Dina's comment
juliana

Yes, Big Pharm and the FDA are in bed together.

June 24 2013 at 4:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
meanderinn

The idiots are our Politician in fact , the one's that we vote for and dnt give a dem about the American people ...the reps works and yes they deserve to be paid , as for the politicans that play a dirty game against the people they deserve to be in jail ..

June 24 2013 at 5:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
James

tHAT SHOULD HAVE READ $3.00 AND CHANGE

June 24 2013 at 2:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
James

Yes, I have a prescription that was filled at a Walgreens the last four months at four different prices from $.00 and change up to last month the same script went to $ 7.25. They tell me thats because the company can change thier prices anytime they want. NOT RIGHT FOR THE CONSUMER.

June 24 2013 at 2:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
fisher2737

It is NOT the drug companies, but the BIG pharmacies suck as CVS, Walgreens etc. These pharmacies are everywhere, in almost every town, and sometimes 2 of them. Imagine their overhead? Example: I take many meds, but here's one. Advair 250/50 CVS charges close to $500 for one ( 1 ) which will last for 30 days. I buy the generic which has worked well for the last few years( purchased from an ON-line pharmacy. I buy 3 of them at once and my cost is a TOTAL of 183 dollars. That proves it is NOT the drug companies. I have a whole list of examples. Saving myself "thousands" every year.

June 24 2013 at 2:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jlm9

At a time when the cost of healthcare is such a huge discussion and the cost of care is ridiculously high, it should be illegal for companies to prevent cheaper generics from reaching the people. The drug companies say they must recoup the cost of the research and patent..well, that is nice, but the general population of people using many of these drugs cannot afford them..and then these costs drive up what we pay for drug coverage..time to rethink how the pharmaceutical business works..they have been taken care of for so long, now it should be the people that are taken care of..where there are limits on the profit that can be made on medications.

June 24 2013 at 1:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply