Learn to Save Big on OTC Medications


I am the first to admit that I’m not a big advocate of medications. Aside from worrying about taking too many and not dealing with underlying health issues, I just hate swallowing pills! It’s a struggle and so I typically look for ways to avoid them. However, as I’ve aged and gotten over myself a bit, I’ve learned that there is something really wonderful about the way OTC allergy meds have made springtime more than bearable, but actually breathable! I have also found that I am a big fan of pain relievers when my rotator cuff issue kicks in, and calcium chews when I’ve gotten overzealous on the salsa. So, I have also started to look for ways to save big on OTC medications.

Can You Actually Save Big on OTC Medications?

My readers know I am a huge fan of strategic shopping and will scout out the best coupons and discount codes, look to see if CVS savings options can get me my OTC medicines at good prices, and even if warehouse stores have a livable per unit price. It might take me an extra 30-40 minutes of comparing to see which item gives me a winning price, but I feel it’s always worth it.

That’s why I was so surprised to learn that I can now save big on OTC medications through Amazon, too. Though I am going to think of it as another point of comparison rather than the automatic go-to when I am looking to save big on OTC medications, I do want to give it a bit of time here because so few people are even aware that Amazon did this.

Turn to Amazon to See if You Can Save Big on OTC Medications

Around the 20th of February 2018 the global online giant known as Amazon rolled out its own, house brand of OTC medications. They call it Basic Care and the brand includes allergy, cough and cold medicines, digestive support medicines, pain relievers, smoke cessation products, children’s medicines, hair regrowth formulas, feminine hygiene products, and more.

Clearly, Amazon is taking yet another step towards becoming a one stop shopping hub for everything in life. The big question, then, is whether or not you can save big on OTC medications by opting for their products. A CNBC report said “Amazon already sells branded OTC medications such as Advil, Mucinex and Nicorette, as well as options from Perrigo’s generic GoodSense brand. These products are all subject to the fluctuating prices from competitors.But its exclusive brand would not be.”

Now, as someone who admits to spending time shopping around, the idea that pricing fluctuations would not occur with the Amazon brand is good news. They already operate on a business model that takes volume into account and has them earning “razor thin” profits on many goods. The Basic Care ventures seems to be that sort of approach. As an example, the CNBC report offered a basic pricing comparison on other “private label” items:

Private-label prices of 200 mg ibuprofen, 500 count

Perrigo Basic Care Perrigo GoodSense Walmart CVS Walgreens Rite Aid
$6.98 $8.49 $6.98 $15.99 $15.49 $14.99

Clearly, you save big on all save big on OTC medications when you go off brand or store brand, but clearly, the Basic Care is offering buyers intense discounts as the average price between the other companies is around $12.

Other pricing comparisons prove that the Amazon venture is going to be amazingly competitive. For example, the CVS brand of diphenhydramine (basically Benadryl) goes for $14.34 per 365 while Basic Care is coming in at 400 counts for $6.09, and the Walgreens version of triple antibiotic ointment is priced at $11.49 for the 2oz tube while Basic Care has it for $7.30.

So, you can save big on OTC medications with this new Amazon line, but there are some caveats. For one thing, if you want those prices without shipping, it means spending $25 or more, or having a Prime membership. Additionally, some of the products fall under Amazon’s “Add-On” pricing policy. That means they can only ship when an order is $25 or more in total. If you make them part of your pantry box, you can ship, but will pay the $5.99 shipping fee.

What this means is simple: I want to save big on OTC medications, and will take the time to scout around the Basic Care line to see what I might safely stock up on for the coming months or even the coming year. However, I’ll stick to my old school approach if I need something right now, as in a product I’ll require within the next few hours or day as I don’t see that the Basic Care line is as cost effective if shipping charges or minimum order amounts apply. After all, adding more merchandise to hit the $25 mark so I can save $6 on a bottle of pain relievers is not exactly my way to cut costs!

OTC Medications

Is OTC Cheaper? Can You Save Big on OTC Medications by Skipping Them?

And before you think that’s all I have to say about the ways save big on OTC medications, give me a few more minutes. That is because a recent article at Good Rx had this to say: “OTC isn’t’ always cheaper… Over the past several years many medications that once required a prescription can now easily be obtained in the aisles of your pharmacy or grocery store. You may be familiar with allergy meds like Claritin, Zyrtec, and Allegra, or heartburn drugs like Prilosec, Prevacid, and Nexium. All are now available exclusively over-the-counter or have both OTC and prescription versions.”

Okay, you say, I am aware of that. What’s the point? The point is that it is very easy to stroll into a pharmacy, pick up the item you want after you have done some self-diagnosis, and be on your way. After all, these OTC medications are on those shelves and counters because the FDA says that they are so beneficial that any risks of allowing consumers unfettered access are outweighed. Besides, the FDA might say, there is almost no risk for misuse and/or abuse.

These compounds are also very effective when you have an issue that you have self-diagnosed, and their labeling makes it easier than ever to choose just the right formula. Because no healthcare provider is needed, it just makes things easier.

Yet, did you realize that you can save big on OTC medications by not buying OTC? As those experts explained, “You may not know that you can often get the same medication with a prescription for less…These lower prices do come with the inconvenience (and potential cost) of requiring a prescription from your doctor. The savings will also depend on the type of prescription insurance you have, your co-pay, and what your plan will cover.

It can still pay to do the research though. For example, many insurance companies will pay for omeprazole 20 mg capsules—the generic capsule version of Prilosec OTC tablets. The OTC version can cost $10 for only 14 tablets, while you could get a full month supply of the prescription generic for that amount (or less) with insurance…”

That means it is a good idea to consider a few factors:

  • What is your insurance provider’s policy about prescriptions?
  • What does the co-pay for an office visit do to potential savings?
  • Will you need something on a regular basis? If so, you may find that generic prescription versions are less expensive (i.e. the famous Flonase nasal spray costs close to $20 per bottle OTC, yet is around $10-$12 when purchased as a prescription)

So, take a bit of time to look at whatever medications you might be prescribed and the OTC options. That includes topical creams and other items you might forget are prescriptions. Sometimes, as we’ve seen, accepting and using prescriptions is the way to go, but then again you might find you save big on OTC medications.

I’ve only recently found some online tools to help me narrow down the options and issues. One of them is the GoodRx website and app.

It is an easy way to compare prices, look for coupons that you can print or send to your phone, and save up to 80% on many prescription medications. For example, it is an app that will collect and compare pricing on all of the FDA approved prescription medications at more than 70k pharmacies in the country. It also then scouts out the coupons that the pharmacies might accept and reveals the lowest pricing nearest to your location.

You just take the time to dig up the right offers and get any prescriptions into the hands of the pharmacist. For example, the app showed that 90 capsules of 300mg of gabapentin was available at a price range of $19 to roughly $27 and lets you find the coupons needed to get the lowest pricing.

Of course, you may want to save big on OTC medications because you are someone who has been prescribed some medications only to find that their OTC counterparts are more effective.

When OTC Works Better

Consumer Reports did a study to discover if there were OTC brands that did the job the same as prescription agents, or if they even outperformed them. What they discovered was fairly surprising. They learned that some allergy medications commonly available as prescription only were less effective than OTC compounds. Their study also looked at insomnia medications, joint pain formulas and migraine medications and found repeatedly that OTC options were superior to some common prescription agents.

Of course, this is in line with what I learned by visiting the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. Their statistics on OTC use said that “accessibility, affordability, trust and empowerment” were four attributes that accented the value of OTC medicines to consumers. They also said that “availability of OTC medicines—off the shelf, without a prescription—provides symptomatic relief for an estimated 60 million people who otherwise would not seek treatment…[and that] Consumers and taxpayers could save $5.2 billion annually if half of the unnecessary visits to primary care physicians were avoided by more self-care, including greater use of OTC medicines.”

I particularly liked hearing that every buck spent on OTC medicines saved the healthcare system around six or seven dollars in return. So, I guess you might say I am changing my mind about OTC medications the more I learn about them.

Having enjoyed some great effects from them myself, I am an advocate of exploring their use for your minor health issues such as chronic allergies, aches and pains, and so on. I’m not alone, again the CHPA said that more than 90% of adults use OTC medicines before pursuing actual medical care and that more than 90% address health issues with self-treatment.

Clearly, we need OTC medications and we need to save big on OTC medications. We rely on them too heavily to see their prices go out of control. That makes the Amazon announcement that it is getting into OTC really good news for the penny pinchers of the world.

However, always remember the importance of quality. Any medicine is only as good as its reliability and performance. The good news, again from the CHPA is that OTC medicines are the most trusted of first line defenders – and this is trust given to them by consumers and healthcare providers alike. With more than 90% of physicians saying that OTC medications are effective and safe, and almost that same number pointing to OTC medicines as important to healthcare, it is a great idea to find those that work best for you and to find ways to save what you can on them.

We know a few good routes, and if I discover more I’ll share them right away. For now, turn to tools like GoodRx, the new line if Amazon OTC medications, and your usual coupon clipping and deal shopping methods to keep yourself supplied with these safe and effective healthcare resources.





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