Saving Money on Cold & Flu Medicines

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It’s flu and cold season, and I’m just recovering from being sick myself. Who knew there was even something called Tylenol Cold Multisymptom Liquid Severe or Mucinex Fast-Max Severe Congestion and Cough? That is, if you can find it while wading through an ocean of this:


Plus it costs nearly 10 bucks? This Atlantic article reminds us that all of these over-the-counter drugs are just combinations of the same old drugs like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or diphenhydramine (Benadryl). Even better, you can buy the generic versions for a fraction of the price, either individually or in their common combos.

The most important part is convincing yourself that generic versions of medicine have exactly the same effectiveness that the name-brand versions. Per the article, in order to be allowed on a pharmacy shelf, the generic version of a drug must deliver the same amount of active ingredients into your bloodstream in the same amount of time as the brand-name drug. You know which group of people buys the most generics? Pharmacists, because they see past all the marketing gibberish.

A new site called Iodine has a Cold & Flu Helper Tool that will help you determine what you need based on your symptoms, and help you find the generic version from places like Costco Kirkland, CVS, Walgreens, or Safeway. Or you can do what the author (an MD) does and keep generic versions of each individual drug, and make your own combo as needed.

Learn something, save money, and avoid taking unnecessary drugs with their potential side effects. Win-win-win!

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  1. We’re all about the generic medications in my house. Costco has great prices on everything from vitamins to cold medicine–and the per unit costs are laughably cheaper than drug stores like CVS or Walgreens. It definitely pays to go generic! And, when I’m in doubt, I just read the ingredients of the generic and the name brand side by side. I’ll also have to check out that cold & flu helper link–thanks for sharing!

  2. There are other natural therapies or household medications which can be very helpful. At our home, we use mix of honey, ginger juice and black pepper for cough treatment.

    Nice one !!!!

  3. There is an old saying, TANSTAAFL. It definitely applies here:
    “There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch!”

    There are three major issues with generics that are typically glossed over:

    1. As mentioned above, only the amount of the so-called “active ingredients” are the same. Unfortunately, other ingredients can and do impact symptoms and efficacy of the drug. For example, I have experienced, first-hand, where a drug I took to prevent stomach upset actually caused it when I was given the generic version. I switched back to the name-brand, and the problem immediately went away. In addition to additional and different side-effects, “inactive” ingredients can also change how well the drug works.

    2. Manufacturing quality issues: A drug company can make some good money on a drug in between FDA tests, and I have personally seen generic drug makers lose their license to manufacture a drug for which they were previously approved, due to quality issues. In the case I saw, it was a heart medication! Imagine if you were taking that generic…

    3. Closely related to #2 above, generic drug makers bear no liability for adverse effects from the drugs they manufacture. This is why quality issues are not uncommon — there is little downside risk as consumers can not sue for damages!

    Does that sound impossible to you?
    Google “generic drug company can’t be sued” — here is the first result of many that came back to me today:
    “Generic drug manufacturers can’t be sued in Fosamax case”

    That one is from this year. There are many, many such cases. Another from last year:
    “Supreme Court: Generic-drug makers can’t be sued under state law”

    As with anything else in this world, there are trade-offs when you go for the cheaper alternative. If it’s much, much, much cheaper, then something else is going on, and it is a really good idea to figure out what that is before choosing.

    What’s frustrating is that most Walgreen’s and CVS pharmacies don’t stock name-brand anymore, so you need to wait a day while they order it. You also pay more out-of-pocket, even when health insurance covers a prescription.

    I still tend to get the name-brand. I want the manufacturer to be held accountable — I don’t like to give away my legal rights and risk my life in the process!

  4. Just recovered from a small cold/flu (?) by using a combination of Elderberry and Echinacea extracts in 2 days. They may cost you $10-$20 per bottle but your down time is shorter, don’t feel as crappy overall and typically do not need the whole bottle if you take it right away when feeling a little under the weather.

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