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Top 10 Ways to Save Money on Your Medication Costs

Medically reviewed by Leigh Ann Anderson, PharmD. Last updated on July 27, 2023.

Let’s face it - talking about health care costs is not at the top of everybody's to-do list. But with all of us now responsible for more out-of-pocket dollars, it's important to consider the value of treatments. Here are 10 steps to help save some money on your prescriptions.

  1. Ask for a Generic Drug
  2. Research Your Medication Copays
  3. Talk to Your Healthcare Providers About Cost
  4. Learn About Medicare Prescription Outpatient Drug Coverage (Part D)
  5. Shop Around
  6. Look for Patient Assistance Programs
  7. Ask for Free Medication Samples
  8. Seek Out Lower-Cost Generic Drug Lists
  9. Discount Coupons: Don't Leave Home Without Them
  10. Only Buy Reliable and Trustworthy Medications

1. 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% less.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that generic drugs are copies of brand-name drugs and are the same as those brand-name drugs in:

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. 

Many popular but previously expensive medications are now available generically or even over-the-counter (OTC); focus on getting these cost-saving alternatives.

Popular but low cost generic drug or OTC classes that are now stocked at the pharmacy include:

2. Research Your Medication Copays

Learn about your insurance copays or coinsurance. For example, research your "tier copay" on your insurance website or give them a call and ask about tiers on your plan. If available, download the insurance formulary app on your phone to help you determine your copays when at the doctor's office.

Copay tiers for prescription drugs can vary widely. Your plan may offer copay “tiers”, for example:

The costs can vary widely depending on your benefits, ranging from $5-$15 per prescription to the full cost of your drug.

Quite often insurance will "prefer" one or two particular drugs in a drug class because they can get it at a more affordable rate through negotiations. This is also why "preferred" drugs are often no longer preferred at year's end, and your copay may go up.

You can access most insurance company drug formularies on their websites. If you are still not sure what a drug might cost you, call your insurance company and ask them about copays for your prescription.

Your pharmacist can also tell you your copay and suggest what alternatives you might have if you can't afford the prescription. For non-formulary drugs, your doctor may be able to submit paperwork to help get this medicine covered for you at a lower cost.

And remember, don't hesitate to call your doctor and ask for a more affordable drug.

3. Talk to Your Healthcare Providers About Cost

Communication is key to understanding your insurance and getting it to work for you in the right way. Let your physician and pharmacist know you prefer lower copay drugs and generics when possible. They will work with you to find affordable treatments.

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.

Many prescription drugs are now found over-the-counter (OTC) and available without a prescription. For example, the heartburn medications Nexium 24Hr or Pepcid Complete and the non-sedating antihistamine Claritin 24-Hr Allergy are OTC products.

The FDA continues to approve prescription medicines as OTC alternatives to help make them more affordable and more accessible for the public. In June 2023, the FDA cleared the first OTC birth control pill called Opill (norgestrel), expected to be available on shelves in early 2024.

Your insurance might not pay for OTC drugs, but it is usually less expensive than paying full price for a prescription. If you have a health savings or flexible spending account, you might be able to pay for your OTCs to that card, too.

4. Learn About the Medicare Drug Coverage (Part D)

According to the FDA, five out of six people aged 65 years and older are taking at least one medication, and close to 50% of all seniors take three or more medications. This can seriously add up.

Learn about and use the Medicare prescription outpatient drug coverage (Medicare Part D) if you are 65 years of age or older.

Medicare is the national health insurance program for people 65 years of age and older or with certain disabilities. Using the optional Part D Medicare coverage, you will typically pay a coinsurance percentage while your plan will pick up the rest.

You might consider joining the Medicare Support Group to ask questions, share opinions, and stay up with the latest news. Learn more at

5. Shop Around

Compare pharmacy prices for prescription drugs if you pay the full cash price instead of a copay.

6. Look for Patient Assistance Programs

Patient assistance programs provide free or lower-cost medications to people who cannot afford to buy their medicine.

You can also contact,, or (or call 1-800-218-0694) – sites that offer a comprehensive listing of resources that offer assistance for low-income families. They may offer discount cards, as well.

If you have commercial insurance (for example, through your employer or from the Health Insurance Marketplace Plans), you may be able to get a reduced copay on a brand name medicine for a period of time through the manufacturer. You can usually find these resources on the manufacturer websites or by calling them.

7. Ask for Free Medication Samples

Consider checking with your doctor to see if they have free samples of your prescription medications, especially when they are first prescribed.

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 generic when needed. If not, you may be paying out-of-pocket for a very expensive brand name drug after your sample runs out.

Don't pay for an expensive brand name drug if an equally effective generic is available. If you're not sure, ask your doctor or pharmacist.

8. Seek Out Lower-Cost Generic Drug Lists

Look for pharmacies that offer lower-cost generic drugs. Some larger 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.

If you have the option to order medications via the mail (from a mail order pharmacy), this can save you money (and time), too. But you may have to buy a 3- or 6- month supply of maintenance medications like diabetes treatments or antidepressants, as mail order pharmacies often only sell drugs in bulk. If you're not sure you'll stay on the medicine, this might waste money and medicine, as you can't return the drugs.

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.

If you buy lower-cost medicines online, be sure they are from reputable and verified pharmacies.

9. Discount Coupons: Don't Leave Home Without Them

Seek out online (but reliable) coupon codes and discount cards that can save money for your specific medication. These usually work if you're paying cash, and may end up costing you less than your insurance copay.

Take the discount code or card to the pharmacist (or show it on your phone) and they can usually enter the code to gain the discount for you.

Pharmacies are getting more comfortable with accepting these discount cards, but not all of them. You might want to call before you drive over. Keep in mind, some pharmacies may not honor coupon codes for controlled substances like opioid pain medications or certain anxiety medications.

If you find that a prescription cost is simply out of reach, ask your pharmacist if they can contact the doctor to discuss options for a less expensive alternative. In most instances, a comparable medication that is lower in cost can be prescribed for your condition.

Finally, 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 annual fee. These plans can often save $10 or more per prescription.

10. Only Buy Reliable and Trustworthy Medications

While it may be a tempting way to save money on medications, do not seek out prescriptions from foreign countries or from unreliable websites on the Internet. What you might save in dollars can be costly to your health.


Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.