10 Tips for Saving Money on Prescription Costs

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    Save Money on Prescription Costs
    The good news about prescription drugs is that their overall cost is actually dropping, with more than half of all prescriptions carrying a price tag lower than $5. The bad news is that our out-of-pocket costs are rising as more of us have high-deductible health plans and cost sharing. Indeed, if you have two or more chronic conditions, your annual out-of-pocket costs at the pharmacy may top $1,000. It's worthwhile to seek out ways to reduce what you spend on medications.

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    1. Get healthier.
    Are you taking medication for lifestyle conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes? There's another way to manage your health. Take steps to exercise, change your diet, and lose weight. You'll be amazed at how much less medication you may need.

  • Woman talking to doctor
    2. Tell your doctor what you can afford.
    The last thing doctors consider when prescribing a drug is price. Yet you can often get the same benefits from a less expensive medication. You just have to ask. Unfortunately, only about one in five patients does just that.

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    3. Ask for generic.
    About 80% of drugs today are generic. They cost up to 85% less than brand-name drugs yet have virtually the same active ingredients as the brand-name medication.

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    4. Request a 90-day prescription.
    You may have lower co-payments with a single 90-day supply than with three 30-day prescriptions. Of course, this only works for maintenance drugs you take on an ongoing basis.

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    5. Shop around.
    A Consumer Reports investigation surveyed pharmacies to compare prices for five top-selling generic prescription drugs and found a 447% difference (about $750) between the highest- and lowest-priced stores.

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    6. Join a warehouse club.
    A Consumer Reports survey of the cost of five commonly used generic drugs found the lowest prices at Costco.

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    7. Check out a mail-order pharmacy.
    Depending on your health plan, it may cost you less out of pocket. But check to be sure; retail pharmacies have become quite aggressive when it comes to competing with mail order, and you may get a better deal at your local drugstore.

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    8. Give your prescription drugs a periodic checkup.
    If you're taking one or more maintenance medications, such as for high blood pressure or diabetes, check with your primary care doctor every six months or so to see if you still need them.

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    9. Look for coupons.
    Drug manufacturers commonly offer coupons and patient assistance programs designed to reduce or even eliminate your co-payment for medications. However, they aren't allowed to offer them to people covered under Medicare or Medicaid programs.

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    10. Follow your medication’s rules.
    You might be tempted to save money by skipping doses, buying drugs from another country, or forgoing medication altogether in favor of alternative therapies. Don't—you could put your health at risk. In the long run, this could mean even more medications, not to mention other medical costs.

10 Tips for Saving Money on Prescription Costs

About The Author

  1. Cohen RA, Kirzinger WK, Gindi RM. Strategies Used by Adults to Reduce Their Prescription Drug Costs. NCHS Data Brief. April 2013. (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db119.htm)
  2. Morgan S, Kennedy J. Prescription Drug Accessibility and Affordability in the United States and Abroad. Commonwealth Fund. June 2010. (http://www.commonwealthfund.org/~/media/Files/Publications/Issue%20Brief/2010/Jun/1408_Morgan_Prescr...
  3. Consumer Reports. Same generic drug, many prices. May 2013. (http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2013/05/same-generic-drug-many-prices/index.htm)
  4. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Facts about generic drugs. (http://www.fda.gov/drugs/resourcesforyou/consumers/buyingusingmedicinesafely/understandinggenericdru...
  5. Harvard Women’s Health Watch. Generic drugs versus brand names: switching could save money. July 2013. (http://www.health.harvard.edu/drugs-and-medications/generic-drugs-versus-brand-names-switching-could...
  6. IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. Medicine use and shifting costs of healthcare: a review of the use of medicines in the United States in 2013. April 2014. (http://www.imshealth.com/deployedfiles/imshealth/Global/Content/Corporate/IMS%20Health%20Institute/R...
  7. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. 4 Ways to Help Lower Your Medicare Prescription Drug Costs. Revised December 2014. (http://www.medicare.gov/Pubs/pdf/11417.pdf);
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