I’m pleased to introduce another member of the Self-Pay Patient team, Yana Krinker! Yana is a DC-area resident who works at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, and who has an interest in self-pay healthcare and health economics. She will be writing occasional articles for the site, hopefully allowing us to get out more frequent content. Please welcome her to the site!
Many self-pay patients looking to save on prescriptions drugs are familiar with chain store discount programs (Costco and Walmart have popular ones) and drug price comparison websites such as GoodRx, but another excellent resource that hardly ever gets mentioned is the cash-only pharmacy. As I explain below, self-pay patients may want to check prices at Medsavers Pharmacy or another cash-only pharmacy before filling their next prescription.
Medsavers Pharmacy is a family owned and operated pharmacy in Austin, Texas founded in 2005 on the principle: “we don’t deal with insurance companies.” By refusing to work with third party payers, co-owners Pharmacist Chris Johnson and his wife Bryna, are not required to stock a certain amount of brand-name drugs, thereby lowering overhead costs, and insurance companies can’t influence the prices Medsavers charges for medications.
For customers this translates to drug prices which are often significantly less than cash prices offered by other pharmacies. It also means that all shoppers, regardless of insurance status, are charged the same prices on prescription drugs. Medsavers pharmacy has a retail location in Austin, and for those of us who don’t live in central Texas, Medsavers will ship any non-controlled prescription for $5 (within the states where the pharmacy or supplier is licensed).
The focus of Medsavers is generics because of their commitment to help those who are uninsured or underinsured afford their medications. As explained on their website, the greatest cost savings are seen with generics because they are less expensive at wholesale than brand name drugs and retailers have more flexibility in what they can charge for generics. Thus, the pharmacy will order brand name medications if requested but generally does not keep a large supply of brand name prescriptions in stock.
On Yelp, customers praise Pharmacist Chris Johnson and the Medsavers staff for their excellent customer service and generally going out of their way to help patients, especially the uninsured. “Jenn” from Austin, TX writes:
Chris Johnson is a blessing to Austin, Texas. Thanks to his generosity and caring of the human race, he’s helped thousands of us uninsured folks to maintain our health levels when some of us thought we’d never be able to afford the best care.
He’s helped me save a ton of money, pain, and frustration by being accommodating and informative. I remember one prescription I had in particular that would have cost me over $100 a month the way my doctor had prescribed it (one pill a day) but Mr. Johnson was able to gain approval from my doctor to break it up in to a series of three pills a day (of the same prescription) and I only ended up paying about $30 a month. I never would have known I had an option like that if Mr. Johnson hadn’t taken the time and effort to help me.
It is also worth noting that many insured Yelpers state that they pay less for medications at Medsavers than with their insurance at other pharmacies. “Matt” from Austin, TX, puts it bluntly: “Best place to get meds. Cheaper than my COPAY. No lines. No waiting. No BS. They fill fast while you wait.”
To compare prices I checked montelukast (brand name: Singulair) for preventing asthma attacks because I recognized it off the Medsavers website (must be due to effective marketing because, thankfully, I’ve never had asthma) and atorvastatin (brand name: Lipitor) for high cholesterol because it is one of the most prescribed drugs in the United States.
Medsavers is offering ninety tablets of 10 mg montelukast for $46. The estimated cash price according to GoodRx is over $200 depending on the retailer and the “fair price” (what insurers typically pay), according to Healthcare Bluebook, is $19 for thirty tablets which comes to $57 for a ninety day supply (retailers often charge slightly less per pill when buying larger quantities but I’m going to ignore that discount in these comparisons since I’m just trying to get rough estimates). Based on this information, Medsavers price on montelukast is great!
For ninety tablets of 20 mg of atorvastatin, GoodRx is estimating a cash price of at least $150 depending on the retailer while Medsavers is charging $52. The “fair price” according to Healthcare Bluebook is $13 for thirty days which comes to $39 for a ninety day supply. So while Medsavers is charging a whole lot less than the $150+ cash price shown on GoodRx, it may be worth shopping around a little to see if it’s possible to get an even better price on this drug. However Medsavers’ price on atorvastatin is by no means outrageous and it is even significantly less than what some major pharmacies are charging with a discount coupon card, according to GoodRx.
Medsavers Pharmacy is an excellent resource for self-pay patients looking for affordable prescription drugs and a pharmacy staff familiar with the specific concerns of cash pay patients. Non-controlled prescriptions can be mailed for $5 within the states where the pharmacy or supplier is licensed, so even customers outside of the Austin area can take advantage of this pharmacy.
You can reach Medsavers by calling 512-465-9292 (or toll-free at 866-765-9292), sending an email to medsaverspharmacy@gmail, submitting a message via the online contact form or even visiting their retail store at 1800 W 35th St, Austin, TX 78703. Store hours are Monday through Friday 10am-6pm and Saturday 9am-2pm.