Health Money Saving Tips

Ways to Save Money on Prescription Drugs

Ways to Save Money on Prescription Drugs
Written by Irina Vasilescu

When you were young, do you remember your mom asking you to take vitamins to keep your growing body healthy? As you grow older, you take health supplements and vitamins to maintain your strength as you go about your daily activities. Once you’re already in your senior years, that is when ageing-related ailments, chronic diseases, aches and pains usually crop up.

This is the time that you start popping two, three or more pills on a daily basis. In fact, according to the US Centers for Disease and Control Prevention, adults take at least one prescription drug per day, and it is not uncommon for older individuals to take five or more different types of medications on a daily basis.

If you’re an average earner or if you’re an elderly individual who is merely relying on Social Security and minimal retirement benefits for money, the cost of such prescription drugs will take its toll on your budget. Since you cannot make do without these prescription medications, is there a way for you to save money when buying them? That is what we will find more about here.

Safe Ways to Save Money on Prescription Medication

Whether you’re taking vitamins, health supplements or one, two or more prescription medications, the cost of all of these would add up and take a huge chunk out of your budget. The same thing holds true even if you are under a comprehensive health insurance plan. So what are you supposed to do if you need to fill out a prescription but you don’t have the budget for it?

Doctors actually get frustrated whenever patients who are given prescription medication simply skip popping the pills because they do not have the budget for it.

Instead of risking your health doing this, there are perfectly safe and effective ways for you to save money on prescription medication:

Prevention is still better than cure.

Nobody wants to spend any amount of time in the hospital but illnesses and accidents do happen. If you don’t want to fall ill, remember that prevention is still better than cure. Eating healthy, exercising and living a generally clean lifestyle will keep you out of the doctor’s office as much as possible.

Aside from keeping your body in tiptop shape, living a healthy lifestyle will also not put a dent on your budget because you would not have to pay for doctor’s fees, hospital bills or medication.

Obesity in particular is the one issue which drives up people’s medication costs. Diabetes and high blood pressure are chronic conditions which are a result of obesity.

According to health experts, even a 5 to 10% decrease in total body weight could greatly improve your health, thereby reducing the number of pills that you have to take on a daily basis. When you exert extra effort into losing weight, you can see improvements with your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Once the doctor sees such improvements, your prescription medications will be decreased.

For elderly individuals, there are programs like “Welcome to Medicare” which involve yearly wellness visits. The program has free health screenings so that medical conditions can be caught early so that they can be treated accordingly. Instead of treating a disease at its latter stages, preventative care is still better than outright cure when the illness is already there.

With early diagnosis, you will also be saving a lot of money on taking multiple prescription medications.

Be honest with your doctor.

As mentioned earlier, one of the biggest frustrations that doctors have is prescribing medication to patients. But once the patient realizes that he or she does not have the money to buy the medicines, they are simply skipped.

The result? The health condition which the medicines should have treated in the first place will just be ignored. So what’s a good compromise in this situation? All that your doctor asks is for you to be honest. Let’s say that you were diagnosed with a chronic disease and you were given brand-name prescription medications.

After buying a week’s supply of the pills, you find out that it is way beyond your budget. Instead of merely stopping taking the prescription medicines, be honest with your doctor and tell him or her that you cannot afford the medication – even with your existing health plan. Surveys indicate that one out of five new prescriptions written are never filled.

So if you already know that you cannot buy two weeks’ worth of branded prescription medicines, tell that to your doctor outright. You should be given cheaper alternatives like generic brands, or you can both work out a cheaper treatment alternative.

Learn about co-payments for two similar drugs.

When you have a health insurance plan, there is such a thing as a formulary. This is a list of the medications covered on the plan. Naturally, you’d want the medication prescribed to you to be included in the formulary – but your doctor doesn’t know this.

Once you are given prescription medication, you can ask your doctor to list down the top three options or even the generic version of the pills. Doctors are more than happy to let patients get involved in such decisions, especially since finances are a big factor in the success of a health treatment.

Do your research.

Before buying any prescription medication, do your research about the safety and effectiveness of the drugs.

The first thing to do is consult with your pharmacist or another general physician.

Second, you can visit ConsumerReportsHealth.org. The site will give you an idea about how each prescription medication type performs, and there are also in-depth reports on how effective the most common drugs are in addressing health issues like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, insomnia, asthma and even depression.

Go generic.

Again, if you know that you cannot afford branded prescription drugs, it is best to be honest to your doctor about it. While the doctor is filling out the prescription, ask him or her if there is a generic medication that you can buy instead of the brand name ones. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, generic drugs cost 80 to 85% lower than brand-name products.

Get the dose that you need at half the price.

If your doctor prescribes a 250mg pill, compare its price with that of a 500mg pill. What most elders do is buy the same medication at double the mg, and simply split the pill in half. This way, they get the exact same dosage but without having to pay as much as they would when buying two pills. So if a 250mg pill costs $5 while the 500 mg dosage costs $7, you will be saving $1.50 for every half of a pill that you are taking.

Go comparison shopping.

For every state, there are laws which require pharmacists to tell consumers, both in person and over the phone, about the cost of a prescription drug. Even if you ask different drugstores for information, you are not under any obligation to buy from one particular pharmacy. This means that you can easily go comparison shopping and scout which pharmacy offers the lowest price for the medication that you need.

Use coupons to cut back on the costs of your prescription medication.

Even with prescription medication, there are coupons or discount vouchers that you can cut from magazines or get online. Visit the website of the pharmaceutical company and look for 30-day trial offers, coupons or discounts. This will save you a lot of money in the long run.

Review your Medicare Part D plan options.

For Medicare plan holders, there is such a thing as an open enrolment period which starts around the middle of October and ends mid-December. During this time frame, you can review your Part D plan options which let you save a lot of money in the process. Consider the cost of drugs for each plan and you can easily save anywhere from $1,500 to $1,600 per year simply by switching your Medicare Part D plan options.

Check your state’s pharmaceutical assistance program or the drug manufacturer’s patient assistance program.

For seniors who have very limited income, most states offer a pharmaceutical assistance program. Extra Help, for example, is a government-sponsored program which helps seniors with the cost of their prescription drugs. Qualified applicants can get as much as $4,000 for this program. There are also pharmaceutical assistance programs which help low-income seniors pay for the gaps in their medication coverage.

Order your prescription medication in bulk.

Finally, if you are suffering from a chronic medical condition which requires you to pop lots of pills on a daily basis, you do have the option to fill out the prescription in bulk. You can actually place an order for a 90-day supply and there’s even an added bonus of free shipping. As compared to getting the prescription medication that you need from a local pharmacy, ordering in bulk can easily save you a couple of hundred dollars for a three-month supply.

By doing your homework and not hesitating to go generic, there are plenty of things that you can do in order to save money on prescription drugs – without putting your health at risk.

About the author

Irina Vasilescu

Irina Vasilescu is our crafty designer. She joined the team three years ago and is also involved in the writing process.

11 Comments

  • These are all great tips. Also, be sure to check with your local stores to see if any offer free prescriptions on certain items. This seems to be more prevelant in certain areas of the country, and it is usually offered by big chain department stores or grocery stores. In my town, both major grocery stores offer a list of prescriptions that their pharmacy will fill for free. They are usually generic versions of the type of drugs that you would only take for a short course, such as antibiotics or prenatal vitamins. However, since every store has its own list, you should definitely call around before you get a prescription filled.

    I recently paid $17 for antibiotic for my daughter, and discovered that the store across the street would have filled it for free. Now I know!

  • All of the tips outlined here make a lot of reasonable sense to do in order to save back money on prescription medication. Luckily I’m able to get some good coverage on my insulin that I’m dependent on for the rest of my life. As I am young now, I do worry about having to go the pill popping way due to developing conditions and ailments. I’ll probably need to take note of this for future reference.

  • Prescription drugs are so horribly expensive these days and they simply are just not an expense that you can ‘cut out’. Finding ways to save on them can be hard — but these tips are definitely helpful. Thanks for the info. With a newborn daughter and me having post-birth complications – I have a lot of medicines I am on and using them to help save will be a wonderful relief for my family.

  • Oh man, going generic has saved me so much money for the past few years, and that doesn’t just applies for pill too. I still don’t understand why people would go for flashy packaging instead of plain generic, when it’s just the same thing. The same factory makes the stuff inside, and it’s just the packaging. Also, with online shopping, everything is cheaper and better than ever. Thanks for the article!

    • I think a lot of people are simply unaware that there are generic options available. Oftentimes doctors get a kickback for prescribing a certain brand’s product, so of course they will take the incentives to do so. It might not be perfectly ethical, but I guess not much is nowadays.

  • One thing to keep in mind is that some newer drugs simply won’t have a generic available. Many drug companies race to develop a new pharmaceutical drug so that they can monopolize and abuse their patent sales of it for 20 years. That may mean that the drugs you need won’t even be available in a generic form until they fall out of the patent protection window.

    • Exactly. It turns out that a lot of new drugs that can save lives are out of reach for people when a generic doesn’t exist. If a person can’t pay the full price and only one single drug is available, then they’re more than likely out of luck unless they want to throw themselves into debt just trying to stay alive. It’s a bad situation.

      • It’s one of the biggest ethical issues when it comes to pharmaceutical companies. Ultimately, they can’t be faulted for seeking profits on their products, but at the same time where do you draw the line when lives can literally be lost because of lack of access to your drug?

        Alternatively, should the government be subsidizing these drugs even more? And if so, where do you draw THAT line? Especially when it’s well known that politicians are often in the pharmaceutical companies’ payroll?

  • prescriptions are so expensive. If you can keep your eyes out for those little discount cards. Sometimes they have them on the registers at stores and sometimes they come in the mail but they have cards that can save you five to ten percent on your prescriptions just by showing them the card. you don’t have to pay for it either which is great.

  • When you’re comparison shopping, don’t just check the usual places like CVS and Walmart. Many large hospitals have an in-house pharmacy. Especially the larger ones often have really good prices. Other than the generics on the $3 list at walmart, I get the best prices at my local teaching hospital’s pharmacy.

  • I don’t get the distrust people have with generic brands. They’re the same thing, as long as the dosage is the same. They’re not secretly laced with poison, just as the named brands aren’t mixed in with secret medicines. I also agree that living a healthy lifestyle is the best thing you can do to save money on prescription drugs.

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