Whether or not someone has Medicare and is using Medicare’s new Part D drug benefit, Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs (CRBBD) program is an excellent resource for anyone taking prescription drugs. As a public education project of Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports, CRBBD provides people with free, independent information about the safety, effectiveness, and cost of drugs within commonly used therapeutic categories, and makes recommendations on the “best buy drugs” based on this information. People can use this information when talking with their doctors to choose the most cost-effective drug for their situation. In a recent report, “Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit: Beneficiaries Can Lower Out-of-Pocket Costs While Getting Safe and Effective Drugs,” CRBBD demonstrates how by using the identified Best Buy drugs, people enrolled in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan can save a significant amount of money. This article reviews some of the report’s key finding as well as provides an overview of CRBBDs resources and outreach activities.
In the report, CRBBD found that people in Medicare Part D plans (PDPs) who switch from relatively high-price drugs to Best Buy drugs could lower their out-of-pocket costs, saving between $2,300 and $5,000 per year. The report is based on PDP data collected in three states and looks at five common therapeutic categories of drugs, including: ACE Inhibitors (for high blood pressure and heart disease); Antidepressants; Calcium Channel Blockers (also for high blood pressure and heart disease); Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs); and Statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs). These potential savings are critical because they are sufficient to keep beneficiaries with similar drug profiles from entering the gap in coverage (known as the “donut hole”) that begins when total drug costs reach $2,250. Beneficiaries who realize savings by switching to just one lower-cost, effective drug can save enough, in many cases, to cover the cost of their entire Part D premium. Recent reports in the media indicate that many people may not be signing up for the Medicare drug coverage; with good reason, many are uncertain about the savings under the benefit. Yet, with the May 15, 2006 deadline to sign up to avoid a delay in coverage (until January 1, 2007) and a lifetime premium penalty, it is important that seniors and people with disabilities know that by considering cost-effective medicines, they can significantly stretch their health care dollars with their Medicare Part D plan.
Even people without Medicare or those beneficiaries who decide not to enroll in Medicare Part D can save money by switching to Best Buy or other lower-cost medications. Using the retail prices posted at www.drugstore.com, the report found that a person without drug coverage could save $348 to $1,908 per year. If a person takes drugs in each of the five categories studied, the total annual savings would be $4,680.
While this cited report provides a snapshot of some of savings available when using CRBBD’s Best Buy information for these five therapeutic categories, the website, www.CRBestBuyDrugs.org, has information on Best Buy drugs for another seven categories. Comprehensive reports on all twelve categories are posted online; each one also includes a separate two-page summary in both English and Spanish. People can print these summaries and discuss the recommendations with their doctors to find the most safe, effective, and low-cost drug for their condition. The additional seven categories covered are:
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Antihistamines (for allergies)
- Beta Blockers (High Blood Pressure and Heart Disease)
- Menopause Drugs
- Proton Pump Inhibitors (Heartburn, Ulcers, and Stomach Acid Reflux)
- Triptans (for migraines)
- Alzheimer’s Disease
In a time where the pharmaceutical industry’s messages of promoting newer and more costly drugs saturate much of the materials on available prescription drugs, CRBBD helps both people with and without Medicare make informed, cost-saving choices about their medications. Outreach efforts to educate people about these CRBBD resources, distribute printed materials, and help people access the information and reports online are currently happening in the four states of California, Georgia, Maryland, and Minnesota. California Health Advocates Project Coordinator Janet Nelson organizes California’s outreach activities statewide. Those who would like to order printed materials and/or would like to schedule an educational presentation on the CRBBD project in either English or Spanish can call or email Janet at (916) 231-5215 or