PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – There are lots of changes with medical care these days, but when it comes to prescriptions, the cost only seems to go up.

The latest? Americans spend more than $250 billion a year on prescription drugs.

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However, savvy shopping, even for those covered by insurance, can save you plenty.

For people taking prescription medicine regularly, Consumer Reports said the average annual cost is more than $700.

But there are some surprising ways to cut your drug costs.

“The first thing you can consider is taking an over-the-counter medication for really common ailments, as opposed to taking a prescription drug. But of course, you’d want to do that with the advice of your doctor,” Lisa Gill of Consumer Reports said.

For seasonal allergies, Claritin is a good and much cheaper substitute for prescription Xyzal.

For heartburn, over-the-counter Prilosec or store brands containing omeprazole are roughly as good as prescription Nexium at a fraction of the cost.

For occasional insomnia, look for generic diphenhydramine, the ingredient found in Sominex and Benadryl Allergy, rather than prescription Lunesta.

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Another way you might be able to save is by paying for your prescription yourself rather than going through your insurance plan.

“Paying out of pocket can be cheaper if you use discount programs at stores like Sam’s Club, Walmart, or Target,” Gill said.

For example, paying outright for Pravastatin, which lowers cholesterol, could well cost less than your insurance co-pay.

“Other ways to save? If your insurance company has a preferred pharmacy, you definitely want to shop there because you could see some pretty big deals. If they have a mail-order program, you may want to check that out, too, because you could see some savings there as well,” Gill said.

When shopping for over-the-counter medicine, look for store brands.

They’re often right next to name brands and can cost a lot less.


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