FORT MYERS, Fla. (Consumer Reports) - For people taking a regular prescription, Consumer Reports says the average annual cost is more than $700.  In fact, Americans are spending more than $250-billion every year on prescription drugs.  But savvy shopping can save you money, even if you are already covered by insurance.

"The first thing you can consider is taking an over-the-counter medication," says Consumer Reports' Lisa Gill. "But of course, you want to do that with the advice of your doctor."

For seasonal allergies, Claritin is a good and cheaper substitute for prescription Xyzal.

For heartburn, over-the-counter Prilosec, or store brands containing omeprazole, are roughly as good as prescription Nexium at a fraction of the cost.

And for occasional insomnia, look for generic diphenhydramine. It's the same ingredient found in Sominex and Benadryl Allergy, and is cheaper than prescription Lunesta.

Another way you might be able to save: paying for your prescription yourself, rather than going through your insurance plan.

"Paying out-of-pocket can be cheaper ify ou use discount programs at stores like Sam's Club, Walmart, or Target," Gill says.

For example, paying outright for cholesterol-lowering Pravastatin could will cost less than your insurance co-pay.

"Other ways to save?  If your insurance company has a preferred pharmacy, you definitely want to shop there because you could see some pretty big deals," Gill says. "If they have a mail-order program, you may want to check that out, too."

And when shopping for over-the-counter medicine, look for store brands.  They're often right next to name brands and can cost a lot less.

Consumer Reports also says those "clearance" or "sale" displays at drugstores should be taken at face value.  The offers can entice you to buy a name brand that's on sale, but still more expensive than its store-brand equivalent.

For more ways to save on prescriptions, check out the link below:

http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2013/09/how-to-cut-drug-costs-save-on-prescription-drugs-consumer-reports/index.htm