Drugs – where and how to save when shopping around

Drugs – where and how to save when shopping around

Shop for medications and save money

Experts not infrequently complain that the cost of medicines is much too high.

The culprit is not least some doctors who would deliberately prescribe the more expensive version of a drug, although there may be cheaper alternatives with the same active ingredient.

So what should you pay attention to in order to save as much money as possible when buying medicines??

The situation in Germany

First of all, you should know that the prices for many drugs here in Germany are already somewhat higher than in other countries. This is particularly noticeable in comparison with the Netherlands.

Although the amount spent by health insurance companies has fallen by 1.17 billion euros compared to 2011 (to a total of 30.87 billion euros), experts say that even more savings are possible.

This requires however also the assistance of the physicians: If these would renounce to prescribe expensive original products and would prescribe instead so-called Generika (active substance-same products), then further savings at a value of 3,1 billion euro are possible.

But since this cannot be changed so quickly, one has to think about what one can do oneself in order to get needed medication at the lowest possible price.

A price comparison is worthwhile

What is always worthwhile is to compare the prices of different suppliers and individual pharmacies. The fact is that only prescription drugs are subject to price fixing.

In the case of over-the-counter drugs, on the other hand, pharmacies can decide on the price themselves.

You can compare prices on your own, but there are also special portals that automatically compare the prices of different pharmacies.

Saving money with generics

The most money can be saved if you decide to buy generic drugs.

As already mentioned, this is a kind of copy of another drug, which may be put on the market as soon as the patent protection of the original drug has expired.

There is no need to worry about the quality of the products. Only the shape and color can vary, and other preservatives and flavorings may be included.

As for the release and absorption of the active ingredient in the body, this can also differ from the original drugs.

If the doctor prescribes an original drug, you can ask him or her whether it might be possible to prescribe a generic instead.

In the case of a drug that does not require a prescription, one can simply ask the pharmacist for suitable and cheaper generics. Because even these can show differences in terms of pricing.

Important: The aut idem rule

If it is a prescription drug, you should keep in mind the so-called aut idem regulation, with the help of which you can save some money.

This says namely that no certain medicine, but only a certain active substance is prescribed, if the physician on the prescription no cross with „aut-idem“, which means as much as „the same“ sets.

In this case, the pharmacist can choose a suitable drug that is somewhat cheaper.

If the physician sets the cross, one should ask him whether this is really medically necessary or whether it is not also possible to prescribe generics.

Order online

It is also possible to save money by ordering from a mail order pharmacy, where there are often some price advantages.

It should be noted, however, that delivery costs of three to five euros are due, unless you order with a prescription and remain under the limit of the minimum order value.

Such pharmacies are particularly suitable for patients who suffer from a chronic disease and for this reason need many drugs, which are also quite expensive.

One should pay attention however to the fact that one orders only with respectable offerers, since there are also some questionable offerers in the Internet.

Therefore, you should always check that the pharmacy is audited and is located, for example, in Germany, another European country or Switzerland.

In addition to the address, the imprint should also state the respective supervisory authority responsible for the pharmacy, the relevant chamber of pharmacists and the name of the pharmacist responsible for the content.

Saving money by taking medicines without co-payments

If a drug is prescription, customers must pay a ten percent surcharge – this is a minimum of five and a maximum of ten euros, but may not be higher than the actual price of the drug.

However, there are also some medicines for which no surcharge has to be paid, namely if the price is less than 30 percent of the fixed amounts set by the health insurance funds.

You can easily find out exactly which medicines are exempt from co-payments at the pharmacy.

Paying less through discount contracts

It is often the case that some health insurance companies have signed contracts with certain pharmaceutical companies, which results in lower costs when purchasing prescription drugs.

For example, the co-payment is reduced by half or it is omitted completely. It should be noted, however, that this only applies to the insured of the corresponding health insurance.

Here, too, you can simply ask at the pharmacy for the respective medications.

Application for exemption from co-payments

Another option is to apply for an exemption from the co-payments that arise. This is possible if one spends more than two per cent of the own gross income for the additional payments.

This also includes practice fees and physiotherapy. If this condition is met, one can apply to the health insurance company to be exempted from co-payments for the rest of the year.

The required percentage of gross income is even lower for chronically ill patients – in this case, only more than one percent of gross income must be spent on co-payments for prescription drugs.

It is important to keep all receipts so that the amounts that you have overpaid can be reimbursed by the health insurance company afterwards.


Medication in Germany is more expensive than in other countries. As long as doctors do not refrain from prescribing expensive original drugs, this will not necessarily change anytime soon.

However, it is possible to save money on the purchase. For example, by asking for so-called generics – for prescription and for over-the-counter drugs.

For this you can, for example, get advice at the pharmacy. In addition, it may be worthwhile to find out with which pharmaceutical companies the respective health insurance companies have concluded discount agreements.

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