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10 Ways to Save $$$ on Your Prescription Medicines


  • Learn what help your state and local governments may have to offer. You may be surprised to learn that many states have programs to provide prescription assistance to people who are eligible for them — typically the elderly with low incomes and persons with disabilities. Try your particular state’s website, or call your state senator or representative. Be aware that there are differences in these programs depending on your particular state – and that there can be a lot of paperwork involved! But you may find that some of the programs you contact have people available to guide you through the process.
  • Look for less expensive versions of brand-name medicines to treat your condition. Did you know that different brand-name medicines used to treat the same condition can vary in price? Sometimes these cost differences can be significant. This isn’t always an option, but try asking your doctor if you can take a less expensive version of your medicine.
  • Find out if you can take a “generic version of your brand-name medicine. If a generic (non-brand-name) version of your medicine is available for your doctor to prescribe, you can typically save 30 to 60% or more if you don’t have health insurance that covers your medicines. If you do, the average saving is 50%, including a lower co-pay. If your doctor prescribes a brand-name medicine for you or someone in your family, ask if you can get a generic version. And watch for news items about brand–name medicines that are “going off-patent,” which may mean generics will become available.
  • Ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter (OTC, non-prescription) medicine. Can an OTC medicine be as effective as one that’s prescribed? Sometimes the answer is yes — and if it is, chances are the OTC medicine will be considerably cheaper. Ask your doctor if you can use this way of saving on your medicines.
  • If you’re just now starting a prescription medicine, ask your doctor if you can have a “trial prescription,” so you can buy fewer tablets. This is also a good way of finding out 1) if the medicine will “work” for you and 2) if you can tolerate any side effects that may occur. If you find out you don’t want to continue the medicine, you’ll have saved money by not buying a full prescription at the start.
  • It pays to “shop around” and get the lowest price for your medicine, because the prices pharmacies charge for medicines can vary. Be cautious about buying your medicines at a number of different pharmacies on the basis of lowest price, however. It’s best to buy your medicines at one pharmacy that keeps track of everything you’re taking, allowing the pharmacist to warn you about potentially harmful medicine interactions. When you find a bargain price at another pharmacy, ask if your regular store will match it.
  • Ask for free samples of your prescription medicine if your doctor has received them from the manufacturers, who provide them for distribution to patients. If it’s your first prescription for a particular medicine, this is also a good way to “try” the medicine to see how well it works for you and how well you tolerate any side effects. This is also helpful when you only need a one-time prescription — for example, to treat a bacterial infection.
  • Consider using mail-order pharmacy services, where you can usually order up to a 3–month supply of your prescription medicine for about 30% less than individual prescription refills would cost. Mail-order pharmacies are also more private and often more convenient. You should be aware, however, that a mail-order pharmacy can’t fill prescriptions as fast as your pharmacy. So mail order is usually best for people taking medicines chronically or for long periods of time. If you use an Internet pharmacy service, be sure it carries the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practices Sites (VIPPS) seal, which identifies sites licensed to sell prescription medicines online.
  • Look into prescription medicine discount programs from the manufacturers. Most pharmaceutical companies have programs that provide medicines at little cost or offer discounts on their medicines for people with low to modest incomes and/or no insurance coverage. GlaxoSmithKline has two patient assistance programs for uninsured, low-income patients. The company also offers the Orange CardSM and is one of 7 manufacturers who offer discounts through the Together Rx™ program to seniors with higher incomes.
  • Once a year, bring all your medicines to your doctor and your pharmacist to find out if cheaper versions have become available since the last time you checked. If your insurance covers prescriptions, take your plan’s formulary (list of covered medicines) with you, too, to be sure that as many of your prescriptions as possible are covered.

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