‘Secret’ for OTC Medications?
I saw a graphic going around social media about store-brand over-the-counter medications. Apparently there is a code on the package of store brand products like aspirin, ibuprofen and antihistamines that will let you know when what's inside is identical to a store brand. It's not just the active ingredients that are the same: The code tells you if the brand name also made the store name product, so they are truly identical. I think this is valuable information for your readers as it can save them a lot of money.”
I’ve seen this infographic, too, and it’s eye opening. It shows a package of store-brand pseudoephedrine nasal decongestant next to a name-brand version of the product. Both boxes are oriented toward the camera to show identical codes of “PL 12063/0067” on the boxes. The graphic’s text instructs shoppers to look for this code while shopping, and if you can match the PL code on a house-branded item with an identical code on a name-brand product, you’ll know that they both contain the same exact medication.
One problem: The infographic currently circulating on the web is from the United Kingdom. While this code-matching tactic will work well if you’re in England, Scotland or Ireland, it won’t work in the U.S. The “PL Code” refers to a product license number that all over-the-counter medications are required to carry on the packaging. If a name brand also creates identical medicine for stores’ house brands, it must carry the same product license code.
While we don’t have a comparable method to identify store-branded medicine manufactured by name brands, it’s worth noting that generic, house brands of over-the-counter medications still can save you a great deal of money over buying store brands. Everyone knows I’m an advocate of shopping with coupons, but the truth is that you can often find better prices on many common medications by buying the store brand. Generic medications with the same active ingredients and formulations are able to treat the same symptoms.
Recently, our church was gathering mission supplies for medical clinics in Central America. The church provided the congregation with lists of the supplies needed, and helpfully noted “generics are fine.” In the week that followed, I kept the list of medications with me and checked the prices on everything from generic antibiotic ointments to antacids at the supermarket, drugstore and other retailers. Guess who had the lowest prices on the medicines I needed to buy?
The dollar store. Really! I went to a national dollar store chain where every item in the store is priced at $1, and I found the majority of the medical clinics’ wish-list items there for a dollar. One of the other retailers I looked at had 25-count antihistamine tablets for $1.89. The dollar store had a 30-count bottle for $1. I also bought 60-count antacid tablets, tubes of antibiotics and antifungal creams, elastic bandages and gauze pads. I have to confess that I never actively looked for so many first aid and over-the-counter medications at the same time at the dollar store, but I was rather impressed by their selection. Shopping there for these medical supplies allowed us to stretch our donation budget significantly and fill a bag for far less than we would have paid elsewhere. If you have a dollar store near you, it’s definitely worth checking to see what kinds of first aid products and medicines they carry.
As long as we’re on the topic of saving money on over-the-counter medications, here’s another tip I’ll leave you with: Don’t pay more for identical name-brand medications. A few years ago, I noticed that a popular pain reliever had a variety on sale specifically advertised as a “Back Pain” remedy. I looked at the ingredients list and it was identical to the regular, general pain reliever. I’ve noticed the same ingredients in other varieties as well – a “Migraine” variety also had identical ingredients. If the ingredients are identical, but one product is priced higher than the other, you’re paying for the name.
Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about Super-Couponing at her website, www.jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to email@example.com.