Online pharmacies, discount cards, plans that offer free medication… Find out how to save hundreds of dollars on prescription drugs.
Prices for prescription drugs have skyrocketed in the last couple of years –A 7.1 percent hike in 2004 alone, according to a market study released by AARP. With the escalating costs and the ever-higher number of people without full benefits, is there a way for families on an average income to afford prescriptions?
Although there are no fool-proof methods, here are some options that may help you reduce your expenses.
Find Out Beforehand What Your Insurance Covers
Do you know how much your co-payments for prescription drugs are? Is there a maximum amount per year? How much? What happens if you reach the maximum? Is there a formulary (a list of covered drugs) for your plan? How are out-of-pocket expenses prearranged? These are all valid questions to which you should have an answer before you sign with any insurance plan. The problems become even more urgent when you get older or if you take a prescription on a regular basis.
Get a Discount Prescription Card
Your employer’s group insurance plan may provide you with one, or you can choose to sign for an idea on your own. Some drugstore chains (such as Eckerd) offer their card, or you can go with a national plan.
Plans have the added benefit to let you shop at any pharmacy, but they usually charge you a yearly fee (around $50 covers the whole household). Discount cards may save you up to 30 percent of the quoted price, depending on the drug. If you take a monthly prescription that runs into the hundreds, you’ll probably recoup the fee in a couple of months.
People with or without medical insurance can use these cards, and many states offer special programs that award these cards to seniors.
They rarely fix the prices, especially when it comes to generics. Compare-shop at different local pharmacies to find the one that offers the best deal. Costs can also vary according to drugs, so because a pharmacy charges less for something doesn’t mean it would be cheaper to shop there for all prescription drugs. Ask around.
Ask Your Doctor For Free Samples
It may not be an ongoing solution, but it can still save you a few dollars. Drug companies usually leave samples at doctor’s offices, so why not take advantage of them? Free samples may also be a great option if you’re trying a new medication. There’s always a chance you may not respond well to it or may experience bothersome side effects and would have to switch to a different one. Free samples would save you the expense of buying a large quantity of something you won’t be able to take.
Switch to Generics
A recent investigation revealed the business behind brand name medications. As an example, a month-supply of Prozac 20mg costs about $95, while the generic Fluoxetine HCL is only $11. Most drugs show a significant difference in price between the brand name version and the generic one, although, by law, both must have the same amount of active ingredients in them.
Why the difference? The fillers in the drug plus the packaging differ. Your doctor should be able to tell you if there’s a generic equivalent you can take and if it’s ok to switch (some people are allergic to some of the fillers, so don’t do this on your own).
Companies such as Wal-Mart and Target have online pharmacies that offer a significant discount on prices you would find at their regular store. Even chain drugstores such as CVS sometimes offer lower rates when you shop online. Licensed companies have a Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites seal on their website.
You may be surprised to learn that many prescriptions drugs have close equivalents in over the counter (OTC) drugs. It is the case with many pain relievers and flu and allergy medication.
In many cases, changes in lifestyle can alleviate symptoms enough that a prescription is no longer needed. Cutting caffeine, citric fruits, and juices, and high-fat snacks can reduce your need for antacid medication. Always talk to your doctor about alternatives.
Go North (or South) of The Border
Although there is much controversy about foreign pharmacies selling prescription drugs over the internet, some of them are legitimate companies who can merely afford to sell drugs cheaper. A recent investigation by Eyewitness News revealed that Lipitor costs 164 percent less in Canada than in the US, and Celebrex is almost 500 percent less expensive in Mexico. Genuine foreign pharmacies will ask you for an American prescription and evaluate it through their medical team. You should be cautious of online companies willing to sell you anything without a prescription. If you live near the border, driving into Canada or Mexico may also be an option.
Split Your Pills
Because prescriptions usually cost the same no matter the dosage, you could buy a more significant strength and split it into two doses. For example, instead of buying ten 50mg-pills, you could buy ten 100mg-pills, break them in half, and get twenty doses for the same price.
It doesn’t work with all pills, as you can’t split some of them shouldn’t (or physically can’t). It is the case with timed-release medicines, drugs that require a precise dose (such as seizure or heart medication), and anything that comes in a capsule. Consult with your doctor about the possibility, as it could save you 50 percent of your monthly costs. If your doctor approves, buy a pill splitter at your local pharmacy for about $5 to make the task as stress-free as possible.
Find Out If You Qualify for Patient Assistance Programs
If your income is too high to qualify for government assistance, these private or pharmaceutical company programs (which are non-profit and mostly run by volunteers) can help you gain access to your medication for free. Most of these patient assistance programs get your prescriptions directly from the appropriate drug manufacturer by filling out forms on your behalf. It does not cover all medications, and not all drug manufacturers have patient assistance programs in place, but the system is worth a try.
Free Medicine Program is an example. For a $5 application fee, they will research all available programs and see if you qualify for free medication. If you don’t, they’ll refund your money. Needy Meds offers all the information you need to do this process on your own. Both companies have a user-friendly website with an extensive list of available medications. Check first to see if yours is listed. If it’s not, there’s a good chance that any of the free programs currently available. may not cover it