Are medications busting your budget? Save money with these 10 strategies. ― By Betsy Wiesendanger
The high cost of prescription medications can force you into making some uneasy choices. You might find yourself thinking, Do I really need this medicine? Can I skip it, or stretch it out to make it last longer? Fortunately, there are ways to pay less at the pharmacy without compromising your health―whatever insurance you have. Discount programs, coupons and talking with your doctor can help you save money. Try these tips to make your meds more affordable.
Drug prices vary drastically at different pharmacies. Note the name, dose and quantity of the medicine your doctor prescribed, then compare prices at local pharmacies by calling around or searching destinationRx.com. Check prices at your local warehouse clubs too―they often feature substantial discounts. Go to costco.com and click on “Pharmacy” to see many prices posted. Costco offers an even greater price cut to people without prescription drug insurance.
A few healthcare organizations (not to be confused with your insurance plan) have negotiated discounts that are available
to anyone. Download the card from the Internet, take it to a participating pharmacy, and get a price break on both brand-name
and generic drugs. For example, YourRxCard (866-561-1926, www.yourrxcard.com) cut the price of a vial of insulin by $9. Another card to try is FamilyWize (800-222-2818, familywize.com). Discounts vary, so check to see what you’ll save on your specific medication.
About 75% of brand-name drugs sold in the United States have a generic equivalent that costs significantly less. For example, a brand-name allergy drug can be $1 per pill, and the generic version is just 8 cents. Walmart, Target, Kroger and other discount and grocer chains offer 30- and 90-day supplies of generic drugs for $10 or less. If your doctor hasn’t prescribed a generic, ask why. It’s possible that the drug is new and there isn’t a generic equivalent yet. If so, ask the doctor if there's an older, less expensive medicine that works just as well.
Often you can reduce costs by ordering prescriptions online to be mailed to you. Your health insurance company might have
a preferred mail-order pharmacy; call the number on your card to find out. Or go to vipps.info for a list of 17 pharmacies that have been approved for safety and privacy by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.
Mail-order pharmacies should be used only for medications you take regularly, not for drugs you need to treat a sudden illness.
Check optimizerx.com, a site on which drug companies post links to coupons and free offers. Also check the Web site of the company that makes
your medication (to find the manufacturer, look on your prescription label next to the drug name and the dosage). If you’re
willing to switch pharmacies, some stores offer cash rewards to new customers.
As long as your pills aren’t capsules and your medication is time-released, ask your doctor if it’s possible to double your dose and then split each pill in half. The cost per dose is likely much lower that way. When ALL YOU priced Lexapro, an antidepressant, the 5 mg pills were about $3 each, but the 10 mg pills were only 16 cents more. Be sure to use a pill splitter―a device available for a few dollars at drug stores―to hold the pill in place and help you cut each one accurately.
For medications you take regularly, ask your doctor to prescribe 90 days' worth. The price per dose is generally cheaper for larger quantities. And if you have insurance, you pay one co-pay instead of three.
Don’t be embarrassed to say you’re having trouble affording your medications. Physicians want you to comply with their treatment
plan, and often can help you find cheaper alternatives. Ask for samples, and see if the doctor knows of local programs that
provide financial assistance.
At least once a year, make a list of all the medications you take, including prescriptions, over-the-counter products, herbal remedies and vitamins. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review the list. If you see more than one doctor, you could be taking two drugs that address the same symptom. Or, you might be on two drugs that shouldn't be taken together. Ask your doctor if you can eliminate one or more.
Many states, nonprofit groups and pharmaceutical companies can help pay for your medications, even if you already have health insurance. The Partnership for Prescription Assistance acts as a clearinghouse for such programs. Visit pparx.org or call 888-477-2669 to determine your eligibility. For information on children's programs, go to kids.pparx.org.