Recession Busters: Medicines

Reporter: Helen Wellings

Getting sick can be an expensive ordeal - just one drug prescription, even with the Federal Government subsidy can cost up to $36. If you're on constant medication you could be paying $2,500 a year. So what can you do to slash those bills?

Knowing how to cut your medicine bills in half can save a fortune, and the best part is, it's easy and safe to do. The savings to be made are huge.

Instead of paying $30 for Zoloft, you can get the exact same drug, Sertaline, for $15. Sertaline is the branded drug alternative, or the generic product.

Sometimes doctors, but usually pharmacists, ask if you want the branded drug alternative, the cheaper generic.

Sigma Pharmaceutical's Managing Director, Elmo de Alwis, says you're mad if you don't opt for the generic.

"Anyone who buys a branded product where there are generics available has chosen to pay a brand premium in terms of the price. They're paying more," Elmo said.

Cheaper generics are available for around 60% of prescription drugs. Once a medicine's patent expires after 20 years, manufacturers are allowed to produce copies which are listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

A lot of people are sceptical about generics but there's no need. They're proven to be equivalent - they have exactly same active ingredients and they behave the same way in the body.

Brenton le Grand is Marketing Manager of Pharmacyonline, which sells tens of thousands of discounted products like skin and hair care products, perfumes, vitamin supplements and over-the counter and prescription medications.

Brenton le Grand says Pharmacyonline can deliver you big savings.

"In terms of prescription medication, obviously generics offer quite a saving. 40 to 60% per cent. You can save by buying online and buying a generic medication. Over the counter medications you can expect to save 30 to 40 per cent," Benton said.

"These are some of your big brand name over the counters such as Berocca or Claratyne for your upcoming hayfever season. And this one in particular, your Xantrax weight loss product, retails for $51.70 and it's under $33 online which represents a saving of 36%," Benton said.

Massive savings, some half price, can be obtained on common prescription drugs. Cholesterol drug Zocor, you pay $35.85 at the chemist, its generic Simvastatin at $32.90 saves $2.95. Pharmacyonline's Zocor costs $28.90, the generic only $19.90 - so the online generic saves you $15.95 compared with the Chemists brand-name Zocor.

Losec for reflux at the Chemist - $35.65, the generic Omeprazole $32.90. Online - Losec is $26.90, generic Omeprazole at $15.90, saves $19.75. Compared with the Chemist's branded product, the on-line generic's less than half price.

Just send your prescription into Pharmacyonline and within 2 days you have your products.

"Look you still have access to one of our pharmacists so whether it be by phone, email, fax, you can still be in contact with them and get the friendly advice you would normally get from your local pharmacy," Benton said.

How to order online...

You can get information at info@pharmacyonline.com.au or visit www.pharmacyonline.com.au to order online.