As the cost of health care continues to rise, it is important to find low cost drugs. If you have a chronic illness and take several medications, the costs may become a serious burden.
There are ways to save money on medications. Your first step is to speak with your doctor about your financial concerns. Your doctor will be more willing to write a prescription for a generic medication or change your therapy to a less-expensive alternative if she knows that you are concerned about money.
The following are some well-established ways to save money on your medications:
Generic medications can save you up to 80% on the cost of a prescription compared with the brand name drug. Ask your doctor if there is a generic drug available to treat your condition.
Example: In November 2009, a large drugstore chain charged $90 for a 30-day supply of Zocor 10 mg, a medication used to treat high cholesterol. The generic version (simvastatin) costs $20, a difference that would save $840.00 each year.
Shop around at pharmacies in your area. Pharmacies often vary widely in what they charge for a medication. To save on gasoline, call your local pharmacy or look online; some large drugstore chains, such as Walgreens and CVS, may share the price of drugs on their websites.
Ask your pharmacy to match the lowest price in the community. If you buy your drugs from a local pharmacy that knows you, ask the pharmacist if she is willing to match the lower prices from another pharmacy in the community. Many pharmacies make most of their money on over-the-counter products and products that are not related to your health. The pharmacy would like to keep you as a loyal customer.
Shop for generics at "Big Box" stores. If you take generic drugs, you may be able to buy these for $4 for a 30-day supply, or $10 for a 90-day supply, at a large national chain store, such as Wal-Mart, Target or Costco. In some areas of the country, your local supermarket pharmacy may have low cost generic drugs too. You can visit the pharmacy section of these store's websites to find a list of available cheap generics.
Example: In September 2008, a large drugstore chain charged $302 for a 90-day supply of Paxil 10 mg, a medication used to treat depression and anxiety. At the same drugstore, the generic version (paroxetine) cost $90; however, Wal-Mart offered a 90-day supply of paroxetine for $10.
Stick to the no-name store brand when buying an over-the-counter (OTC) medication. As with prescription medications, OTC generic drugs are less expensive than their name brand counterparts, and they are safe and effective.
Example: In November 2009, a large chain drugstore was selling the brand name allergy medication Claritin for $22.99 for 30 tablets. The drugstore's house brand of loratadine, the generic version of Claritin, was selling for $19.99 for 90 tablets.
Learn about pill splitting. Splitting pills can save you money, because drug companies often charge a similar price for varying doses of medication. Some pills, such as capsules, enteric-coated pills and long-acting pills, cannot be split. Check with your pharmacist to see if your medication can be split.
Example: In November 2009, a popular online pharmacy charged $125 for 30 tablets of 20 mg of Lipitor (atorvastatin) and $125 for 30 tablets of 40 mg of Lipitor. If your doctor had prescribed 40 mg of Lipitor, you could have purchased the larger dose, split the tablet in half and enjoyed a savings of more than $60 each month.
Go postal and buy thru the mail. If you have a health plan with drug coverage, you most likely can order a 90-day supply of your prescription medications directly from the company that manages your health plan's drug benefit (known as a pharmacy benefit manager, or PBM). Your medications are delivered to your home, and you may be able to save up to 25% off your drug copay.
For example, if the copay for your medication is $25 and you get your prescription filled monthly, you will spend $75 every three months. If you order a 90-day supply from your health plan's PBM, however, you may pay only $50 every three months.
Buy medications online. An online pharmacy can provide you with an easy and private way to buy prescription and over-the-counter medications, often at a more affordable price. Online pharmacies are especially convenient if you live in a rural area, do not drive, or are disabled, frail or homebound. Internet technology also enables you to compare drug prices and shop for bargains. Buying your medications online can be easy. Just make sure you do it safely!
Example: In September 2008, the retail price of ten 50 mg tablets of Viagra, a medication used to treat erectile dysfunction, was more than $180. At four well-known and legitimate online pharmacies, the price ranged from $133 to $156.
Choose your health plan wisely. If you have a choice of health plans and require medications for a chronic illness, you should look at the drug formulary, or list of covered drugs, in each health plan. Choose a plan that covers your medications at the lowest copay. Some health plans have limits on the quantity of medication you can receive. Additionally, some health plans have the requirement that before you can get your medication, you have to try a less-expensive version to treat your condition.
Example: Lipitor, a medication used to treat high cholesterol, is on the formulary of three large health plans in New England. The copay for a 30-day supply of Lipitor is $55 in one plan, $50 in the second plan and $25 in the third plan.
Ask your doctor to prescribe a cheaper alternative. If there is no generic version of your brand name medication, your doctor may be able to provide you with a less-expensive medication that is different but also treats your condition.
Example: Diovan, a medication used to treat high blood pressure, does not have a generic version. It has an average retail price of about $238 for a 90-day supply. If it is safe and appropriate, your doctor may switch you to enalapril, the generic version of Vasotec, which costs $10 for a 90-day supply at Wal-Mart, Target and Costco.