9 Ways to Save on Prescriptions


If you look at the hard facts on prescription drug use in the U.S., almost half of Americans are taking one pill a day, while 10% of the population pops a staggering five or more pills daily. Meanwhile, health care costs continue to rise.

So, what can you do to cut the costs of your prescription drugs? Here are nine ways to slash the bills and save money on your medicines.

1. Double the Dosage

Asking your doctor for a higher dosage can turn a 90-day supply into a 180-day stash. It does involve a little extra work on your part, and you'll need to invest in a pill splitter to do the job properly. (These are usually under $10.) However, you must make sure that you can safely and effectively split the pill. The simplest way to check is to look for the line down the center. If it has that, it is designed to be split. Capsules absolutely will not work, so don't ask.

2. Get Generic Whenever You Can

Some people are sticklers for buying brand names, and in some cases they have every right to be. From foods and electronics, to jewelry and shoes, name brands are often more favorable. But when it comes to prescription drugs, it makes little sense to pay for a brand name when a generic is available. As MedicineNet.com explains, "Generic drugs are copies of brand-name drugs that have exactly the same dosage, intended use, effects, side effects, route of administration, risks, safety, and strength as the original drug. In other words, their pharmacological effects are exactly the same as those of their brand-name counterparts."

As you don't wear prescription drugs, or taste any difference, there is no reason to pay extra for a brand name. The only exception, of course, is if the generic version of the drug is not yet available. In that case, you really do have to pay through the nose.

3. Ask Your Doctor for Alternatives

When your doctor fills out a prescription, make sure and ask about alternatives to the medication they have recommended. There may be several different types of medication that will do the job, but some could differ vastly in price — especially if one is available as a generic, and the other one isn't. Don't leave the doctor's office until you know that you have options to work with. The difference could be hundreds of dollars a year.

4. Use a Discount Program

There are many different discount programs available nationwide, for people with and without health insurance. Many stores and pharmacies have discount and loyalty programs that you should definitely take advantage of, and they're usually free to join. There are also other ways to save, such as the NACo Program, Familywize, and special savings for seniors from the AARP.

5. Order in Bulk

One of the best ways to save money on your regular prescriptions (those you take month after month, year after year) is to buy in bulk and take advantage of big savings. For instance, Cigna's online pharmacy Tel-Drug is a very handy resource that can save you a lot of money. Most of the 90-day supplies are charged at a 60-day supply rate, saving you 33% every time you place an order. Shipping is usually free, unless you need the drugs at a rush speed.

6. Use Coupons

There are coupons for almost everything these days, and prescription drugs are no exception. You will find coupons at your doctor's office, the weekly circulars, and of course, online. Do not underestimate the efficacy of these coupons; although some are for only a few dollars, they can add up over the course of the year. And if you take multiple prescription drugs, the savings can really start to snowball.

7. Get Samples

This is a tricky one. On the one hand, samples are great because they're free. However, samples are also readily handed out by doctors as a way to get you started on a brand new drug that you may, or may not, want to take. It's common practice for drug companies to slightly change the formulation of a drug that is about to go generic, give it a new name, and charge a brand fee. But, they will give out free samples to get people to try it. So, talk to your doctor about the differences between the new drug, and the one that's similar (or almost identical) at a fraction of the cost. However, if you plan on taking that pill, the samples can sometimes add up to weeks, or even months, of free drugs.

8. Look Into "Extra Help"

If you are a Medicare beneficiary, you should definitely look into the government's Extra Help program. Applicants who qualify can look forward to around $4,000 of assistance every year, but you must fall below a certain income threshold, have limited resources, and reside in one of the 50 states or the District of Columbia. If you do qualify, it could be of enormous help.

9. Finally, You Could Try Canada, But…

It's illegal. For the moment. Yes, although it can save you a lot of money, buying any kind of prescription drugs from a pharmacy outside of the United States is against federal law. However, Congress is considering new legislation to allow Americans with valid prescriptions to purchase their medications from licensed Canadian pharmacies. Of course, this could all depend on the power and persuasion, not to mention the vast amount of money, that lobbyists for the U.S. drug companies will bring to the table.

How do you control the cost of prescription drugs?

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Guest's picture

You forgot one of the simplest... get your prescriptions from Costco. Not only are the drug prices typically lower, but their dispensing fee is the lowest in the business. I'm not sure if it is true in USA, but here in Canada you don't even need to be a member. Under the law here a pharmacist can't discriminate who they'll dispense to so anybody can use the Costco pharmacy. Just tell the gatekeeper at the door you are going to the pharmacy and they have to let you in.

Guest's picture

You forgot Costco!

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