Tired of those endless ads for the latest prescription drug? Sick of large co-pays or high retail prices for treating what ails you? Check out Consumers Union's free new Web site...

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Tired of those endless ads for the latest prescription drug? Sick of large co-pays or high retail prices for treating what ails you?

Check out Consumers Union’s free new Web site, www.crbestbuydrugs.org.

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With Best Buy Drugs, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports weighs the relative costs and benefits of brand-name and generic medications.

But this isn’t an attempt to transplant Consumer Reports’ respected methods for evaluating cars and refrigerators. Think of it more as an anti-marketing campaign, designed to counteract the billions spent each year on selling prescription drugs.

Consumers Union started with three widely used drug classes: cholesterol-lowering statins; nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) used for arthritis and pain; and proton pump inhibitors, used for heartburn, ulcers and stomach-acid reflux.

CU didn’t do any testing itself — it relied on independent reviews of each drug’s effectiveness, safety and adverse effects by the Oregon Health & Science University’s Evidence-Based Practice Center. The center is already evaluating these same medications as part of a 12-state Drug Effectiveness Review Project, aimed at helping those states get the most for their Medicaid dollars.

In each category, Consumers Union has identified relatively inexpensive drugs, already off-patent, that may work perfectly well for a fraction of a major brand’s cost.

Among NSAIDs, for example, Consumers Union identified generic ibuprofen and generic salsalate as “best buys,” costing an average of $24 to $30 a month.

It recommends a brand-name medication, Lipitor, for patients who need at least a 40 percent reduction in LDL cholesterol. But patients who need less of a reduction may not need Lipitor, at its average cost of $117 a month. They may be well-treated with generic lovastatin, at an average cost, depending on dose, of $28 or $40.

Best Buy Drugs doesn’t consider price to be the paramount concern, and neither should you. But evaluations such as this can help patients and their doctors escape the temptation to assume that newer and pricier equals better.