How to Compare Drug Prices Online

One way to save money on prescription drug purchases is to compare pricing from one pharmacy to another. Whether you are uninsured, don't have prescription drug coverage, or maybe approaching the Medicare doughnut hole, comparing prices among drug stores online makes sense.
But there is more to this than just knowing which drug store charges how much for the drug you need. Here is some advice for getting your medication and saving money, too.


Determine Whether There Is a Generic Version of Your Drug Available

Prescription drugs coming off the production line
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A generic drug is bio-identical (from the same class of drugs) to a brand name drug. It will help you in the same way as a more expensive branded drug, for a fraction of the cost. Once past the period where the manufacturer of a drug is restricted to the original patent holder, other companies can make the same drug. Ask your healthcare provider whether there is a generic version of your drug available. As the inactive components of the medication may be different, your healthcare provider may monitor your condition after switching to the generic to ensure it is having the same effect.


Determine How Your Drug Is Listed in Your Payer's Formulary

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Become familiar with your insurance company or payer's drug formulary. The formulary is a list of drugs and their co-pays. You might be able to save money by finding out which other drugs (from the same class of drugs) are on lower tiers, meaning they are less expensive. The reasons for the different costs and whether or not a drug is included on the formulary have to do with whether over-the-counter or generic versions are available and whether the insurer has negotiated a lower cost with the manufacturer. You can work with your healthcare provider to determine which drug will work the best but cost the least for you.


Be Aware of Legal and Safety Considerations for Ordering From Online Pharmacies

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Online pharmacies can save you money, but be careful!. EVOK/M.Poehlman/Getty Images

Rogue foreign online pharmacies advertise great prices, but you can't trust that the medication you receive is of the correct strength and quality. To order prescription drugs online safely and legally, check the VIPPS-Accredited Pharmacies List from the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. These online pharmacies are certified as operating legally and ethically and with your privacy and safety in mind. Many of the approved pharmacies are websites of pharmacies in your area that are members of national chains. Your costs may be the same as when you go to their pharmacies in person. But some may have lower prices when you compare them and many provide comparison tools to other pharmacies on their websites.

Keep in mind that if you use rogue sites you risk not getting the right medications, identity theft, and fraudulent charges. There are also legal and health risks in purchasing your drugs from foreign pharmacies.


Access Drug Price Comparison Websites

Comparing drug pricing
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Once you have determined what your options are among generics, lower-tiered, or branded drugs, these websites can help you determine their costs:

  • Pharmacy Checker: This site will compare prices for online and overseas pharmacies as well as local pharmacies. Their approved online pharmacy rating system checks whether the pharmacy is licensed, a prescription is required, and proper protection is given for personal information and financial transactions. They have operated since 2002.
  • SingleCare: You can easily compare prices for your specific prescription — including for various administration forms, dosages, and counts. The SingleCare site is clean and easy to use, displaying the cost at various local pharmacies and offering coupons to help you lock it in.
  • Good Rx: This site checks prices from over 60,000 U.S. pharmacies and allows you to print out coupons you can take to your pharmacist. They also have a free app for iOS and Android.
  • You may also want to check for local and national chain pharmacies offering free or low-cost drugs.

Be Sure to Include Shipping Costs

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When making cost comparisons, don't forget to include the cost of shipping.  While the price on one website might seem lower, shipping charges might make the drug much more expensive.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does every medication have a generic version?

    Many brand-name medications have a generic version to choose from, but not all. It usually takes some time for alternative options to appear. When new drugs are introduced to the market, they hold a patent which prevents other companies from selling similar versions of the drug.

  • Are prescriptions less expensive online or in-store?

    Some prescription drugs can be less expensive online, but it depends on the drug. There isn't a universal option on which is the better choice. You can compare online and in-store prescription drug prices using websites like,, or

  • Why isn't there a generic insulin?

    As of 2021, the FDA has approved of an alternative option for insulin. This new drug is known as Semglee. It is considered an interchangeable and biosimilar drug to Lantus, a preexisting insulin drug. A biosimilar product does not show a significant difference to other FPA-approved drugs, meaning it is safe for use after a healthcare provider offers their approval. Insulin was previously under patent since 1923. The high cost associated with it affected its affordability for people with diabetes.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. United States Food and Drug Administration. Generic Drug Facts.

  2. Patient Advocate Foundation. Formulary FAQ.

  3. U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Generic Drugs: Questions & Answers.

  4. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. FDA Approves First Interchangeable Biosimilar Insulin Product for Treatment of Diabetes.

  5. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Why People With Diabetes Can't Buy Generic Insulin.

By Trisha Torrey
 Trisha Torrey is a patient empowerment and advocacy consultant. She has written several books about patient advocacy and how to best navigate the healthcare system.