Tips for Saving Money on Prescription Drug CostsIn 2007, Americans spent $287 billion - yes, billion - on prescription drugs. (In 1993, they spent a fifth as much.) Odds are you’d rather contribute a little less to that rising figure. Here are some tips to help you spend less money on your prescription drugs.
Inquire About Alternatives
As your doctor recommends meds for you, don’t be afraid to ask, “How much will these cost me?” You may find that there are less expensive alternatives available, such as generic versions of medications.
Doctors are aware that patients who can’t afford prescribed medicines may stop taking them altogether. As you strategize ways to save money on your prescription costs, remember that you must first run any potential medicine changes by your doctor.
Know your Insurance Options
One way you can help your doctor help you is to show up with a copy of your health insurance’s formulary, or list of covered drugs. Your doctor likely won’t know how much a particular drug is going to cost on your drug plan. With the formulary as a reference, your doctor can assess your insurance’s preferred type of drug, and hopefully make the most economical recommendation to you. Look online to download the information from your health insurer’s Web site; if you can’t find it there, call the customer helpline.
You can also compare the cost of a “name-brand” pill with its generic equivalent. Your doctor may specify to use the generic equivalent, which is often cheaper. In some cases, however, you can’t substitute the generic for a name brand. (You should be able to discuss this with your doctor.)
Look for Assistance
Your doctor’s office may also be able to tell you about programs run by pharmaceutical companies to help patients afford their drugs. (For example, see Pfizer’s Helpful Answers program, which can help with expensive prescriptions, such as the stop-smoking drug Chantix.) You may also be able to get free samples from your doctor.
Once you have a prescription in hand, you can do some shopping to find the best place to buy your drugs. Some states, such as Michigan and Florida, have Web sites where you can compare prices on many standard drugs at pharmacies within the state. If you don’t have such a resource, call around: the same drug may be filled at different prices at different drug stores.
If you don’t need the medicine right away, you can also try shopping online. The Mayo Clinic publishes some tips for ordering from online pharmacies. Make sure you have access to a licensed pharmacist, and buy only from reputable outlets.