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How To Save Money On Over The Counter Medicine

Updated on September 3, 2012


Trying to save money today is becoming a science.  But it's all good.  Just think of the money you save on anything as giving yourself a raise. 

Since we are a pill-popping society, it behooves us all to know the value of the medications that we're taking whether prescribed or not prescribed and how much money we can save on them on a regular basis.  Why spend more for anything than you have to?  That includes over-the-counter medications.

Let's take a look at how to save money on over-the-counter medications.



If you go into any supermarket or drugstore, the amount of pain relievers available is overwhelming. You can buy in quantities of 10, 50 or 100, etc. You can buy aspirin containing products or non-aspirin containing products. You can buy products without caffeine and with caffeine.

So how to know what to buy? Do your homework. Let's look at a few over-the-counter pain medicines and the money you can save with a little knowledge.

  • Tylenol - In its basic form or in combination with other pain relievers such as Tylenol PM or Tylenol Headache. Switching to acetaminophen instead of the name brand Tylenol will save you major bucks over the years.
  • Aspirin - There are more brands of aspirin than Carter has.....well pills! Ascriptin, Bayer and their multitude of products, Bufferin, and St Joseph to name but a few. Plain old generic aspirin is available everywhere.
  • Motrin and Advil - For a cheaper solution, switching to the generic form ibuprofen can net you huge savings over time.
  • Aleve, Anaprox and Naprosyn - Brand names for the pain reliever naproxen and again, in its generic form, a tremendous savings.



  • Mucinex, Tussin, Robitussin, etc - Guaifenesin is the generic name for these drugs and have various and sundry variations such as cough and cold symptom preparations or simply chest congestion preparations, etc. 
  • Alavert, Claritin, Dimetapp and others - The generic form of this medicine is called loratadine and is available again in many different preparations depending upon symptom complexes.
  • Actifed and Sudafed - Generically speaking these are triprolidine and pseudoephedrine.  Again, there are all kinds of preparations for all kinds of symptom complexes.



  • Prilosec - Generic form for this drug is omeprazole
  • Zantac - Generic form is ranitidine
  • Pepcid - Generic form is famotidine
  • Tums - Generic form is calcium carbonate
  • Mylanta - Generic form is calcium carbonate and magnesium hydroxide
  • Maalox - Generic form is aluminum hydroxide, magnesium hydroxide and simethicone



  • Imodium - Generic form is loperamide.
  • Kaopectate - Generic form is bismuth
  • Lomotil - Generic form is diphenoxylate and atropine
  • Pepto Bismol - Generic form is bismuth

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So what's the point?  The point is that all the above medications are located in the grocery store and the drug store right next to their name brand equivalent....and most people reach for the name brand equivalent because they don't understand how this works!

Look at the box of 10 mg of Claritin and then pick up the box of loratadine 10 mg.  If you read the boxes, you won't find any difference in the active ingredient listed (which coincidentally is loratadine).  There is no other ingredient in the name brand Claritin.  It has a prettier box maybe and more advertising on TV (which you are inadvertently paying for by purchasing this product) but there is no difference at all in the 10 mg box of loratadine as opposed to the 10 mg box of Claritin....except the price - several dollars more.  Not pennies but dollars more. 

Take a look at all kinds of medicines and health products with their side-by-side generic equivalents and I guarantee you will start to look at simple over-the-counter medicines and products differently. 

From pain medicines to treatments for hemorrhoids and diarrhea, there is always a generic equivalent available...and most often at a substantial savings....not pennies but dollars difference in price. 

All you have to do is check the active ingredient that is listed in the name brand product.  Check the mg per tablet, and check to see if the product has more than one active ingredient.  Chances are there is another product that has the exact same active ingredient or ingredients that is generic and you save! 

Also check tablets or capsules per package (the unit price) to price compare.  In all cases, usually even with a coupon off on the name brand choice, you're going to save money by buying generic. 

Do buy name brand products if the price is right though and your coupons or sale prices make it a better deal.



Want to save even more money? Shop stores like Costco who offer huge bottles of products you use every day. Don't buy Motrin in the large box but buy plain old ibuprofen instead.

The only drawback to buying generically is on specialty items that do not have a generic equivalent. However, you can sometimes entice companies to start producing these products too if there is an obvious need. Like that old adage, it never hurts to ask.

Start looking around the store and see if you can spot all the name brand products in the health products aisles that have a generic or store equivalent and start adding up the savings.

You can go online and check for coupons or ask in-store if there might be coupons or discounts. Maybe not but again, it never hurts to ask! Sometimes you can get an in-store coupon that will give you $2 off for instance if you buy more than $5 in health products so that is another savings.

Don't just look for generic medicines though. Buy in-store product items such as Q-tips and cotton balls and save money there too. You'd be amazed at the pennies, dimes, quarters and dollars that you save and it all adds up to total savings overall.

According to the video below, Target and Walmart are great places to save money on over the counter medicines.

In short, think generic - it'll save you money at the checkout counter almost every time.


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    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon

      Thanks so much for the kind comment, Hanna - I think we can all help each other though. Hopefully this economy will turn around ONE of these days?

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

      You can be so proud of yourself b eing able to help people in such terrible times. Great hub.

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon

      Glad to help out, Katie....I stick with generics and save bucks!

      Nan - I'm not sure how I put it together either...I just punt! Thanks for the read!!

    • Nan Mynatt profile image

      Nan Mynatt 6 years ago from Illinois

      I don't know how you put your hub together it's great!

    • katiem2 profile image

      katiem2 6 years ago from I'm outta here

      I'm headed out this Saturday to buy over the counter medicines and I'm so thankful for your how to save money on over the counter medicines. With the rising cost of gas every penny saved counts. Thanks for the help on savings. :) Katie

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon

      Thanks so much for stopping by Sage!

    • Sage Williams profile image

      Sage Williams 6 years ago

      akirchner - Wow,lots of work went into this hub. Lots of valuable information and tips on how to save. Great Job.


    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon

      Great point to make, Will - it all depends on the insurance coverage and the copay. I know too you have to be careful of pharmacies charging you the entire copay (say $15) when the medication only actually costs $7! They should only be charging you the cost of the medicine in that case. I swear we all have to be watch dogs on everything these days!

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Great Hub!

      I'm finding that omeprazole is also just as effective as Nexium.

      However, depending on insurance, sometimes over the counter meds, which are not covered, may cost more than the deductible on prescription meds.

      Just a thought.