Many Americans grappling with the high cost of medicine may be putting themselves in harm's way, according to the Consumer Reports National Research Center.
Its just-released survey shows that patients are not filling prescriptions, and are taking expired drugs and skipping doses.
Consumer Reports has advice to help you save money safely.
Almost half of all adult Americans take prescription medication regularly. But for common ailments such as allergies, acid reflux, or aches and pains, the best remedy might already be in your medicine cabinet.
Consumer Reports' analysis shows that many over-the-counter medications work just as well or better than prescription drugs for a whole host of ailments.
For heartburn, Nexium and Prevacid are popular prescriptions. But nonprescription Tums and generic antacids cost a lot less and can relieve occasional heartburn. Consumer Reports says for more serious heartburn, there are over-the-counter options, too.
Even if you've been diagnosed with acid reflux or GERD, research shows that over-the-counter Prilosec or Prevacid work just as effectively as pricier prescription drugs.
Even better is generic Omeprazole, which can save you as much as $192 a month.
For allergy sufferers, over-the-counter antihistamine pills such as Alavert, Claritin, Zyrtec, and their generics are just as effective as the prescription drugs Astepro, Clarinex, and Xyzal.
You could save up to $148 a month. But keep in mind that you might need to try a few antihistamines before you find the one that works for you.
And for joint pain, prescription Celebrex provides relief. But over-the-counter drugs such as Advil, Aleve, Tylenol, and their generics may work just as well and could save you as much as $265 a month.
Whether you're taking an over-the-counter drug or a prescription, talk to your doctor if symptoms continue for more than 10 days.
Consumer Reports also sent its team of secret shoppers to find the best prices on 43 popular over-the-counter remedies. The result: Walmart had the lowest prices on most drugs, with Target a close second. For more information log on to www.ConsumerReports.org.
Copyright 2012 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. Consumer Reports contributed to this report.
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