Investigates: The secret to breaking down the high price of prescription drugs

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — An Action New Jax Investigation uncovered the secret to many newer name brand medications. Some of the medicine is a combination of two or three established drugs which are often available in generic form. And in many of these cases, you can substitute the prescription or over-the-counter medication for a cheaper version of the same drug.


Prices on more than 1,200 prescriptions rose an average of 31.6% in the last year with an average price increase of $250 each, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

So to save money, Action News Jax spoke to a local pharmacist who said there is a simple and safe way to save on many name brand drugs. Certified pharmacist Kevin Duane is a committee member with the Florida Pharmacy Association and owns and operates the oldest pharmacy in Jacksonville.

He said drugs often don’t have to cost so much, but it’s a tactic big pharma uses to make money. “Because of rebates or incentives that your insurance company can get,” he said, “the brand name medicine ends up being the one that’s given to you instead of a generic medicine.”

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But often, Duane said name brands are just two generics put together and repackaged as a way for big pharma to extend patents and keep costs high. He said, “It’s perfectly fine to split it up into two non-name brand meds and save a lot of money in doing so.”

Duane said instead of the diabetes drug Avandamet, you can take a combination of Avandia and metformin for a cost savings of more than $350 dollars a month.

The diet pill Contrave costs hundreds of dollars a month. But if you take its two ingredients separately, bupropion and naltrexone, it’ll cost you less than thirty bucks.

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For high blood pressure, instead of costly Benicar HCT, you can use a combination of Olmesartan and hydrochlorothiazide. The substitution would save you hundreds a month.

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All it takes is a simple conversation with your pharmacist who would then get approval from your doctor. In many cases, Duane said the generics are made by the same name brand manufacturer.   It works for over-the-counter drugs, too. Prescription drug Duexis costs $30 a pill. But Duane said, “That is actually a combination of ibuprofen and famotidine- Pepcid, that’s the over-the-counter drug for heartburn. “He said, ‘I’ve seen some where it saved people hundreds of dollars per month to do this.” Duane said, the practice of folding two or three generics into one name-brand pill that’s more expensive happens most frequently with drugs that treat common issues. So, people who suffer from diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol should check with their doctor or pharmacist about breaking down their prescription and saving money.


  • The following are possible substitutions you can take to save money, but you should discuss them with your doctor first: Actoplus Met - instead take combination of Actos and Metformin
  • Avandamet - instead take combination of Avandia and Metformin
  • Avandaryl - instead take combination of Avandia and Glimepiride
  • Duetact - instead take combination of Actos and Glimepiride
  • Glucovance - instead take combination of Glyburide and Metformin
  • Janumet - instead take combination of Januvia and Metformin
  • Metaglip - instead take combination of Glipizide and Metformin
  • PrandiMet - instead take combination of Prandin and Metformin
  • Lotrel - instead take combination of Amlodipine and Benazepril
  • Exforge - instead take combination of Amlodipine and Valsartan
  • Twynsta - instead take combination of Amlodipine and Telmisartan
  • Avalide - instead take combination of Irbesartan and HCTZ
  • Diovan HCT - instead take combination of Valsartan and HCTZ
  • Hyzaar - instead take combination of Losartan and HCTZ
  • Benicar HCT - instead take combination of Olmesartan and Hydrochlorothiazide
  • Contrave - instead take combination of Bupropion and Naltrexone
  • Treximet - instead take combination of Naproxen and Sumatriptan
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