This article is part of an ongoing series around practical ways you can save money on your prescription meds.
Prescription drug and healthcare costs continue to rise. In 2017, $333 billion was spent on prescription drugs by patients, the government, and insurers. As many as thirty percent of Americans report that their drug prices went up in 2019.
At Honeybee, we are always looking for ways to help reduce the financial burden of prescription drugs. One little known method involves splitting up combination pills and taking them as separate medicines.
What is a combination pill?
Combination pills are pills that contain two or more component medications “combined” together into a single pill. In other words, you are taking just one pill where normally you might have to take two.
Combo pills versus separate pills both have the same health results. In other words, taking medications separately or as one combination pill usually doesn’t impact interactions, side effects, or how well the medicine(s) work.
What’s the point of combination pills?
Medication adherence refers to whether or not a patient correctly follows medical advice. In the case of pharmacy, it just means whether or not you remember to take the correct dose of your medication, at the right time of day, consistently. According to a government study, as many as 40% – 50% of patients on maintenance meds struggle to keep up with their medications.
Convenience can affect medication adherence. The easier it is to take your meds, the more likely you are to remember to take them. That’s the theory, at least, behind combination pills.
Doctors prescribe combination pills purely to make it easier for you to keep up a good medication routine. The thinking goes that since you’ll have fewer pills to keep track of, combo pills are meant to make it easier for you to remember to take your medicine. Fewer pills equals fewer chances for you to forget to take them.
Are combo pills more expensive?
Like convenience, cost can also affect medication adherence. While combination pills are more convenient, our analysis of popular combination pills has revealed that they can be significantly more expensive than taking the component medications separately.
For example, let’s say your doctor prescribes you generic Caduet 5/10 mg, which is taken for blood pressure. This is a combination tablet containing Amlodipine 5mg and Atorvastatin 10mg. The average retail cost of 30 of those combination tablets is currently $173.40.
It is much more affordable if you take those medications individually instead of combined into one pill. At Honeybee, Amlodipine 5mg costs $5 for 30 pills. Atorvastatin 10mg costs $7 for 30 pills. So, to get both meds you are paying a total of $12.
By splitting up the combination pill, you get the same medication—and save $161.40 a month, or $1,936.80 a year.
There are many medications that are cheaper when taken as two separate pills rather than one combination pill. Here are some common ones.
Based on the above data, patients end up overpaying anywhere from $26 to $777 dollars monthly when they choose the combo pill form over simply taking the medications as separate pills. Since these are maintenance medications, this results in a big financial loss yearly.
Even if you did want to take the combination pill, it is still cheaper to purchase them at Honeybee than a traditional retail pharmacy.
Remember to always speak with a pharmacist or your primary care doctor before changing or stopping a medication. You should never switch from a combination pill to separate pills (or vice versa) on your own.