By Dennis Douda, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — In this day of ever rising health care costs, we sure do not want to pay out more than we have to, which is why it is worth your time to review your prescription costs. In the case of a Twin Cities man, three little words cost him a bunch of extra money.

Blaine Herdegen is one of an estimated 20 million Americans with hypothyroidism, a condition that affects metabolism. An inexpensive pill, taken once a day, keeps him healthy. However, when he recently ordered a refill, the pills became considerably more expensive.

“To me, they seemed like the exact same tablets I was always getting,” said Herdegen. “Yet, when I got my invoice that accompanied it, the charge was about six times higher.”

Invoices from MEDCO, the mail order pharmacy, showed that Herdegen’s co-pay of $10.20 for a 90 day supply suddenly jumped to over $66.

His doctor had been prescribing a generic drug. However, when he retired, another doctor from the clinic refilled the prescription. The new doctor wrote “dispense as prescribed” and requested a brand name drug.

“They have to fill it as the doctor ordered,” Herdegen said. “They are not allowed to substitute.”

The labels on both bottles say the drug is manufactured by the same company, Abbott Laboratories. Both labels say Synthroid, which is Abbott’s brand name for the drug. However, the cheaper bottle of pills also says L-Thyroxine on the label, which is Synthroid’s generic name.

It pays to know that MEDCO does have a money-saving search tool on its website where one can find a Synthroid generic for the $10 Blaine once paid. But, a doctor must rewrite the prescription for Blaine to reap the savings in the future.

“Otherwise, (the company told me), I’ll continue to be billed at a higher rate,” said Herdegen.

After a few phone conversations, MEDCO did eventually credit Herdegan’s account for the cost difference between the brand name drug and the generic. He did point out, however, if he had received the brand-name version to start with, he never would have questioned the higher charges.

So, it is worth asking your doctor if an effective, less costly generic medication is available for your prescriptions.

WCCO-TV’s Dennis Douda Reports

Comments (5)
  1. Brad says:

    I’m always getting different-looking pills from the VA whenever they find a cheaper generic. Sometimes they even toss in a few leftovers from another batch in my bottle. I’ve even seen pills broken in half so they would be the right dosage for me. It was scary the first time because I didn’t know what this weird pill was doing in my bottle, but I confirmed what it was and now I just swallow whatever they put in there. Talk about saving taxpayer dollars.

  2. Stacy says:

    It makes me wonder why the doctor would write dispense as prescribed on the persription. Had the sales rep just been in the clinic? Had the doctor or the clinic recently been given something from the manufaturer? That is the problem with the relationship between doctors/clinics and the drug companies, it makes you question their motivice and integrity.

  3. lisa says:

    try this one, for years I have the same prescription and health insurance co payfir each prescription was usually $10.00 a month. By accident one time the pharmacy forgot to run the prescriptions through my insurance and my bill was less expensive. It turns out the co – pay on 2 of my medications was actually more than buying the generic version out front. How many people do you think this happens to? So now instead of paying the auto co pay I always check with the pharmacy to see how much the regular cost is for example one of my prescriptions is only $7.00 per month but I was paying the $10.00 it doesn’t make sense does it?

  4. Beth says:

    I take the exact same prescription, the reason the doctor probably wrote “dispense as written” is that Synthroid is such a sensitive med that the qualithy control is especially important; the generic can fluctuate as it isn’t necessarily produced to the same standards. I’ve had several docs explain this to me.

    1. Stacy says:

      Does the FDA know that generic drugs are not safe? Do generic drug makers have a lower quality control standard that they have to meet? Look around your doctor’s office and clinic. See whose names are on the pens, calendars, mouse pads. Ask your doctor if they or the clinic have gone to training, a retreat sponsored or paid for by a drug company. Ask if the clinic or doctor has “consulted” for the drug company. Ask your doctor what the clinics gift and gratuities policy is. Ask them where the article or warning about quality came from.

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