Top 10 Ways to Save on Your Medication Costs

Let’s face it - talking about health care costs is not at the top of everybody's to-do list. But with patients being responsible for more out-of-pocket costs, it is important to consider the value of 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. Here are some first steps for saving medication dollars.

Use 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.

Research Your Medication Copays

Learn about your insurance copays or co-insurance. 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 prescription copays.

Talk to Your Healthcare Providers About Cost

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 co-insurance 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.

Learn About the Medicare Prescription Outpatient Drug Coverage

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. Learn more at Medicare.gov/Part-D.

Shop Around

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. 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. Your pharmacist can help maintain consistency with your medications, and check for drug interactions, side effects, and allergies, so it is best to keep all prescriptions at one pharmacy when possible.

Look for Patient Assistance Programs

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 resources that offer assistance for low-income families. They may offer discount cards, as well.

Ask for Free Medication 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 name products that do not have a generic available 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 an equally effective generic is available.
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Seek Out Low-Cost Generics

Look for pharmacies that offer low-cost generic drugs – many retail 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. Show this list to your doctor to see if there are any generics on the list for your specific condition. Finding a medication that you can afford so you are able to take it as prescribed is very important. Look for generic over-the-counter (OTC) and store brand medications, too.

Ask for a Discount or a Different Drug

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.

Only Buy Reliable and Trustworthy Medications

While it may be a tempting way to save money on medications, do not buy 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.” You could receive the wrong drug, the wrong strength, or even outdated, expired medications.

Finished: Top 10 Ways to Save on Your Medication Costs

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Sources

  • Viswanathan M; Golin CE; Jones CD, et al. Interventions to Improve Adherence to Self-administered Medications for Chronic Diseases in the United States. Ann Intern Med. 2012;157:785-795
  • FDA. Facts about generic drugs. - http://www.fda.gov/drugs/resourcesforyou/consumers/buyingusingmedicinesafely/understandin ggenericdrugs/ucm167991.htm. Accessed 04/01/2013.
  • Stay Smart Stay Healthy. Humana. Why do some drugs cost more than others? - http://www.staysmartstayhealthy.com/mail_order_drugs. Accessed 4/01/2013.
  • Consumer Reports. Same Generic Drugs, Many Prices - http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2013/05/same-generic-drug-many-prices/index.htm. May 2013. Accessed 4/01/2013.
  • Rx Assist. Patient Assistance Program Center - http://www.rxassist.org/. Accessed 4/01/2013.
  • Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPARx) - http://www.pparx.org/en. Accessed 4/01/2013.
  • FDA. Be Safe Rx: Information for Consumers. Know Your Online Pharmacy - http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/BuyingUsingMedicineSafely/BuyingMedicinesOvertheInternet/BeSafeRxKnowYourOnlinePharmacy/default.htm. Accessed 4/01/2013.
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