Americans spend an average of $885 annually on prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications. But when it comes to cost, you have more options than you might think.

Example: An average daily dose of the popular cholesterol-lowering statin Lipitor costs approximately $98 per month. Lovastatin, a generic of the statin Mevacor that is used in lower risk patients, is available for $37 a month.

The next time your doctor writes you a prescription, be sure to ask the right questions to save money, advises Diane Nitzki-George, RPh, a clinical pharmacist in Evanston, Illinois, and the author of Generic Alternatives to Prescription Drugs (Basic Health)...

Is a generic available? On average, generics, which have the same active ingredients as brand-name drugs, cost 52% less.

Is there a cheaper drug in the same class? The newest-and most expensive-drugs sometimes represent a significant advance over older medications in the same chemical class. But many people do just as well on older, less expensive medications.

Doctors may prescribe expensive drugs because they are often more convenient for patients to take.

Example: The blood pressure drug ToprolXL (approximately $65 per month) is taken only once a day, while the generic version, metoprolol ($10 per month), is taken twice a day.

Finally, ask your health insurer if a prescribed drug is listed in its formulary, the list of drugs that are covered by an insurance plan. Patients usually must pay full price for medications that don't appear on the formulary.

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