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10 Ways to Save Money on Your Prescriptions

Safe, Cost-Cutting Ideas to Help You Save Money on Prescriptions


Updated April 25, 2013

If you have a chronic illness like COPD, the cost of your medications alone may be enough to send you to the poor-house. Learning how to save money on prescriptions will help you reduce some of the financial burden associated with the high cost of medications and leave you with a few bucks in your pocket to enjoy some of the finer things in life.

To follow are ten, well-established ways to help you save money on your prescription medications:

1. Go Generic

Choosing the generic version of a drug is a safe, cost-effective way to save on prescription medications. In fact, according to information provided by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in 2004, the average price for a generic drug was $28.74, while a name-brand prescription was $96.01.

People often associate low cost with that of low quality, however, and generic drugs sometimes fall under public scrutiny. It is important to remember, though, that generic drug companies must comply with the same FDA standards as those who produce name-brand medications, so public confidence can be assured.

For information about consumer education related to generic drugs visit:

Information About Generic Drugs from the FDA

2. Obtain a Discount Prescription Card

A discount prescription card can save you money on both name-brand and generic medications, sometimes as much as 80%. Many large, well-known companies honor discount cards, including Wal-Mart, Rite Aid, CVS and Walgreens. Some cards are free, and in some cases a nominal fee may apply. You will have to do some research on your own to find which discount card works best for you. Some drug stores, themselves, offer discount cards to income qualified individuals.

The following are examples of sites that offer discount drug cards:

Your RX Card (this one is FREE and prints out right away).

RX Drug Card (as low as $4.50 per month).

Free Drug Card US (a nationwide Prescription Assistance Program (PAP) sponsored by a non-profit organization to help all Americans lower their prescription drug costs).

For more information about discount prescription cards, read Discount Prescription Drug Cards from About.com's Patient Empowerment Guidesite.

3. Do Some Comparison Shopping

If you were buying a car, would you go to the first car lot you saw to make your purchase? No, you would probably do some comparison shopping to get the best deal. The same goes with your medications. Because not all pharmacies are created equal, costs of prescription drugs will vary. Don't want to waste time and gas driving all over town to find the best deal? Try comparison shopping online or by telephone. Once you land the best price, then make your trip.

4. Ask Your Doctor for Free Samples

Some time ago, my doctor prescribed a medication that was non-formulary, meaning my insurance would not cover it. When I called the pharmacy to learn the price, I found that it was $165 for a 30-day supply. After recovering from the shock, I called my doctor who was more than happy to provide a 30-day supply to me, free of charge. Remember, drug companies want your doctor's business, so it is fairly common for your doctor to be inundated with free samples, especially of the newer medications. In any event, it never hurts to ask and your doctor will probably be more than willing to help.

5. Use Over-the-Counter Alternatives Whenever Possible

Times are changing and this includes an ever-expanding list of available over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Buying OTC not only saves you money, but time as well.

As a suggestion, if given a choice, always choose the no-name, store brand medication over the brand name. For example, a small bottle of Extra Strength Excedrin, a combination of acetaminophen, aspirin and caffeine, is available for about $8.99. If you were to check the ingredients of the no-name, store brand, you would find that they are exactly the same as the Excedrin, for about half the cost.

6. Talk with Your Doctor About Cheaper Alternatives

If there is not an option to purchase a generic version of your medication, ask your doctor to prescribe a cheaper alternative.

A perfect example of this comes from Michael Bihari, About.com's Drug Guide. He writes:

"Diovan, a medication used to treat high blood pressure, does not have a generic version. It has an average retail price of about $200 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".

Visit Michael at http://drugs.about.com

7. Shop Online From Reliable Sources

Popular stores like Walmart, Walgreens and Target many times offer discounts to those who choose to purchase their medications online.

For example, Walmart has has a prescription drug program that offers a 30-day supply of hundreds of prescription medications, and over 1,000 OTC medications, for only $4. As an added benefit, you can get a 90-day supply of the same medications for only $10. Online shopping is easy and your medications are delivered right to your door. To save money on shipping, you can choose to pick your prescription up right from the store.

Learn more about Walmart's $4 prescription program:

Walmart $4 Prescription Program

8. Use Patient Assistance Programs

Patient assistance programs are run by pharmaceutical companies to provide free medications to people who cannot afford them.

Read more about patient assistance programs from the FDA:

FDA and Patient Assistance Programs

9. Communicate with your Doctor

If you are having trouble paying for your medications, tell your doctor. Remaining silent and not following the prescribed treatment plan due to lack of funds could be a recipe for disaster. Your doctor may be able to provide you with additional resources to help you afford your medications so keeping an open line of communication is essential.

10. Get Help from the Government

If you are having trouble paying for your medications, you may qualify for federal or state assistance programs, such as Medicare Part D or Medicaid. Michael Bihari, About.com's Drug Guide has just written a fabulous article about these types of programs:

How to Save Money on Drugs: Government Programs


U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "Saving Money on Prescription Drugs".

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