10 Easy Ways to Save on Prescription Drugs
Ten Steps to Lower Your Monthly Prescription Bill
Let’s face it - talking about health care costs is not at the top of everybody's to-do list. Today, patients are responsible for more out-of-pocket costs for their medical care, and it is important to consider the value of medical treatments. Prescription drugs can be lifesaving for many patients, but make up a costly segment of the medical bill. Studies have consistently shown that reducing a patient's out-of-pocket cost for drugs can improve medication adherence. Additionally, reports have noted patients may skip therapy to save money.
Here are ten steps for saving medication dollars:
1. Pro-actively Ask for a Generic Drug
Not all drugs are available generically, but those that are have exactly the same active ingredients and therapeutic effects as brand name drugs, and can cost 30 to 80 percent less.
- Don’t wait until you get to the pharmacy to ask for a generic – let your doctor or other healthcare provider know that you prefer generics before they write the prescription.
Recently, many popular but previously expensive medications have become available generically.
2. Learn About Your Prescription Insurance
Learn about your insurance copays or coinsurance. Research your tier copay on your insurance website. Copay tiers for prescription drugs can vary widely. Many plans have $10 or $15 copays for generics (1st tier) or preferred drugs (2nd tier), and up to $35 or $50 copays on non-formulary or non-preferred drugs (3rd tier).
- You can access most insurance company drug formularies on their websites.
If you are still not sure, call your insurance company and ask them about your prescription copays, and if there are alternatives to help lower your out-of-pocket costs.
3. Communicate with Your Doctor and Pharmacist
Let your physician and pharmacist know you prefer lower copay drugs and generics when possible. They will work with you to find an affordable treatment. If you have coinsurance for your prescription cost – for example, say you pay 15% of the total prescription cost –
- It is in your favor to get a generic or lower-tiered, preferred drug, if possible.
Since you pay a percent of the total cost, the lower the total cost, the lower the co-insurance portion that you pay.
4. If You are On Medicare -- Learn About and Use Medicare Part D
Learn about and use the Medicare prescription outpatient drug coverage Medicare Part D if you are 65 years of age or older.
- According to the FDA, five out of six people age 65 years and older are taking at least one medication, and close to 50 percent of all seniors take three or more medications.
Medicare is the national health insurance program for people 65 years of age and older or with certain disabilities that can save seniors some money.
5. Compare Prices
Compare pharmacy prices for prescription drugs if you pay the full cash price instead of a copay – prices between pharmacies can vary based on locations and volume of prescriptions filled.
- It is best to keep all prescriptions at one pharmacy when possible.
Check for the lowest prices, but also talk to your pharmacist who might be able to lower the cost to keep you as a satisfied patient, and maintain consistency with your medications, and check for drug interactions and other safety checks.
6. Seek Out Patient Prescription Assistance Programs
Look for Patient Assistance Programs offered by drug companies. Patient assistance programs provide free or lower-cost medications to people who cannot afford to buy their medicine.
- Many pharmaceutical companies have patient assistance programs listed on their website.
You can also contact RxAssist, NeedyMeds, or PPARx – websites that offer a comprehensive listing of drug companies that offer assistance for low-income families and may offer discount cards, as well.
7. Does Your Doctor Offer Free Samples?
Consider checking with your doctor to see if they have free samples of your prescription medications.
- Often, doctors will have full size samples they can pass along, especially for maintenance medications such as asthma inhalers or blood pressure medications.
These may be brand products that do not have a generic yet, so ask your doctor if you will be able to substitute a different generic when the sample runs out. You don't want to have to pay for an expensive brand name drug if possible.
8. Use the $4 and $10 Generic Drug Lists at Pharmacies
Look for pharmacies that offer low-cost generic drugs.
- Many pharmacies have a generic list of drugs on their website with costs as low as $4.00 for a 1-month supply or $10 for a 3-month supply.
If you would like to save prescription money, show this list to your doctor to see if there are any generics on the list for your condition. Finding a medication that you can afford so you are able to take it as prescribed is very important. Look for generic, or store-brand over-the-counter products, too.
9. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for a Discount
Think about asking for a discount at the pharmacy counter. Many chain pharmacies have in-house prescription discounts they can offer, although you may have to pay a small fee. These plans can often save $10 or more per prescription.
- If you find that the prescription cost is too high, ask your pharmacist if they can contact the doctor to discuss a less expensive alternative.
Often, a comparable medication that is lower in cost can be prescribed.
10. Avoid Unreliable Internet Pharmacies
While it may be a tempting way to save money on medications, it is important to be careful when buying prescriptions from foreign countries or from unreliable websites on the Internet. What you might save in dollars can be costly to your health.
- According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration “the safety and effectiveness of imported drugs have not been reviewed by the FDA, and their identity and potency can't be assured.”
Patients may receive the wrong drug, the wrong strength, or even outdated, expired medications when purchased via the Internet. It is always best to buy drugs from reliable domestic pharmacies that carry FDA-approved medications.
- FDA. Facts about generic drugs. Accessed 04/01/2013. http://www.fda.gov/drugs/resourcesforyou/consumers/buyingusingmedicinesafely/understandinggenericdrugs/ucm167991.htm
- Stay Smart Stay Healthy. Humana. Accessed 4/01/2013. Why do some drugs cost more than others? http://www.staysmartstayhealthy.com/mail_order_drugs
- Consumer Reports. Same Generic Drugs, Many Prices. May 2013. Accessed 4/01/2013. http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2013/05/same-generic-drug-many-prices/index.htm
- Rx Assist. Patient Assistance Program Center. Accessed 4/01/2013. http://www.rxassist.org/
- Needy Meds. Accessed 4/01/2013. http://www.needymeds.org/indices/pap.htm
- Parternship for Prescription Assistance (PPARx). Accessed 4/01/2013. http://www.pparx.org/en
Last updated: 2013-04-21 by Leigh Anderson, PharmD.