Usually when a doctor prescribes a medication during an appointment, we take the prescription slip and head for the door. But a savings-savvy patient will pause and ask, Is there a generic version? This simple question may save you hundreds, even thousands, of dollars a year.

Take Zocor, a popular drug that treats high cholesterol, for example. According to the Consumer Reports Best Buy Drug report at, an average monthly cost for 10 mg of Zocor is $106. But, Simvastatin, the generic version of Zocor, costs only $36, saving you $70!

Even if you have health insurance with drug coverage, generics can save you money. A generic drug has the same active ingredients as the brand-name version and works just as well for nearly all patients. A generic drug can look different from its brand-name counterpart, but the Food and Drug Administration will only approve generic drugs that have the same strength, effectiveness and quality as their brand-name equivalents.

Here are some tips to take advantage of lower cost generics:

For a new prescription:

  • Ask your doctor if there is a generic drug option.
  • Request that your doctor writes, “dispense generic” on your prescription.
  • Double-check with your pharmacist that you have received the generic drug when you get your prescription filled.
  • Keep an updated list of your medications so your doctor can check for interactions. If you do not have a medication list, download a form from and start yours today.

For an existing prescription:

  • Visit the Drug Savings Tool at to find information about the safety, effectiveness and price of your prescription drugs, directly from the Consumer Reports Health Best Buy Drug database.
  • If you have Medicare, use the Doughnut Hole Calculator at to learn how to avoid the coverage gap, or doughnut hole, where you have to pay all your prescription costs. Print a letter and give it to you doctor for each medi-cation option that may save you money. Also, because of the Affordable Care Act, Medicare Part D recipients who reach the coverage gap will now get a 50 percent discount on brand-name prescription drugs and a 7 percent discount on the lower cost generic medications.
  • Be on the lookout for more generic drug choices. Over the next 14 months, seven of the 20 best-selling drugs, such as cholesterol medication Lipitor, and blood thinner Plavix, will have generics for the first time. Be ready to discuss your options with your doctor.