Cost savings, safe disposal focus of Schuette's consumer alert on prescription drugs

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette last week released a new Prescription Drug consumer alert providing Michigan residents with tips on how to safely save money on prescription medications and dispose of unwanted medications.

“While we talk a lot about opioid abuse, many citizens use prescription medications responsibly and legitimately to treat very real conditions,” said Schuette. “This alert is to help those patients walk out of the pharmacy with more money in their pocket and know how to safely dispose of medications.”

Opioid-based pain killers are highly prescribed and, as a result, are often found in medicine cabinets. Leftover prescriptions create the opportunity for medicine to fall into the wrong hands. Drug takeback days happen frequently and Michigan State Police Posts accept drug turn-ins Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

SPOT IT: How to know you’re paying too much


• Know your rights: Michigan law requires a pharmacist to tell consumers the cost of a prescription drug when they ask in person or over the phone. Every pharmacy must also clearly display your right to know its prices with a notice at each counter where prescriptions are filled.

If any pharmacy refuses to give you drug price information, you can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office.

• Know where to look: If you are without a pharmacy benefit or some form of prescription drug coverage, the Michigan Drug Prices website can help you save money. Maintained by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), the website helps consumers without a pharmacy benefit:

—Compare local pharmacy prices on 150 of the most commonly prescribed prescription drugs in Michigan’s Medicaid formulary.
—Find a discount drug program at local retailers.
—Locate an assistance program to help get necessary medications.

• Find legitimate online pharmacies and compare prices: It is not illegal to buy your prescription drugs online and, in some cases, you can save a lot. Legitimate online pharmacies are an easy way to provide access for the elderly and those living in remote areas.

But beware 96% of all online pharmacies don’t comply with state and federal laws or patient safety standards, according to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP).

Thus, look for websites ending in “.pharmacy” because those have special approval from the NABP and also for a blue and red Verified Internet Pharmacy Practices Site (VIPPS) seal from the NABP.

STOP IT: How to avoid overpaying

• Use a prescription discount card: For those who lack insurance or have very high prescription drug co-pays, the benefits of a discount drug card can outweigh the drawbacks and possible loss of privacy.

• Use a manufacturer’s coupon: Manufacturer’s coupons are issued directly by a drug manufacturer and are available from the manufacturer or at a doctor’s office. They are usually for new and brand name only drugs. They can offer significant savings, but with some limitations.

—They can’t be used if you have Medicaid, Medicare, or any federal or state run insurance.
—They cannot be used forever, so your savings may stop at the end of six months or a year.
—If you have insurance, you cannot use the discounted amount toward any deductible you must meet.
—They are often applied after primary insurance, so you can’t use them if you do not have insurance.

RETURN IT: How to dispose of unwanted medication

• Michigan State Police: Each of the 29 posts across the state serves as a location where residents can safely and anonymously dispose of expired, unwanted, or unused prescription drugs. This helps to prevent the misuse of prescription drugs and to reduce environmental hazards.

• Michigan Household Drug Take Back Programs: Find a Michigan household drug take back site near you. For a list of sites, visit michigan.gov/deqdrugdisposal.
Report fraud

If any resident’s rights have been violated regarding prescription drug pricing, or to file a general consumer complaint, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division.