Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ways to Save: Saving at the Pharmacy

If you take any prescription medication whatsoever, you know that prescription drugs can really make a dent in your wallet. After working at a pharmacy for 11 years, I've learned quite a few ways to save money on prescriptions medications. Here are a few of my top tips.

* Use generic where possible. Honestly, generics are usually amazingly cheaper than their brand counterparts. There are many reasons for this and I won't bother boring you with them. Let me just say this. Yes, generics are as effective as name brands.

See, the actual drug has to be the same in both the generic and the brand medication. So the only thing that is different is the "filler" product. So I suggest that, assuming your doctor okays it, you always fill your prescriptions with the generic medication.

* Ask for a less expensive alternative- whether you have insurance or not. If you have insurance, your insurance company decides which drugs they will cover and for what price. Some drugs are considered non-formulary, which means that you have to pay more for them. So if you go to the pharmacy and your co-pay is $60 and you usually only pay $20 for a prescription, ask the pharmacy technician if there is an alternative that may be cheaper. Or you could even call your prescription plan and ask them what other drugs in that category are covered.

Obviously, any changes have to be approved by your doctor, and sometimes the doctor thinks it is best to stick with the more expensive medication. But if at all possible, try a less expensive alternative.

* Ask your doctor for drug coupons, vouchers, and free samples. Drug reps are constantly trying to gain sales for their company and as part of that they drop off vouchers, coupons and samples at doctor's offices. The thing is, often the doctors forget they have them. So, just kindly won't hurt anything. And the worst thing that can happen to you is you are told no!

* Check with the drug manufacturer for savings programs and coupons/vouchers (usually only available for brand name medications). You would be amazed at how many drug manufacturers have savings programs available for patients. Just recently I was checking to see what kind of savings I could get for my friend who takes Carbatrol, a seizure medication. Because they don't have health insurance, she typically spends several thousand a year on this drug. I discovered that Shire, the company that makes Carbatrol, has a program available that would cover the entire cost of the drug for my friend!

If you take a brand name medication, especially if there is no generic alternative, call the manufacturer and ask if they have any patient assistance programs or can give you any coupons or savings vouchers. Nine times out of ten they'll be able to at least offer you a one time savings coupon, most of which are good even if you do have insurance.

* Find out if a 90 day supply will save you money. Often if you have insurance and your plan pays for a three month supply of medication, you will actually save money this way. For instance, some insurances give a steeper discount for a three month supply. Some will actually allow you to get three months worth of medication for the price of two. And if you don't have insurance, generally the more medication you get at a time, the cheaper it is per pill/unit.

* If you don't have insurance, shop around. I especially recommend this for high priced medications. Just because your usual pharmacy is the cheapest around on the blood pressure medication you take, does not mean it will be cheaper on the asthma medication the doctor just prescribed you.

Prescription drug prices vary greatly from pharmacy to pharmacy and from medication to medication. So shop around.

Please do note though, if you use multiple pharmacies, it is VERY important that you keep a list of all the medications that you currently take with you and show it to the pharmacist every time you get a prescription filled. This is the only way they will be able to catch any drug interactions.

* Ask if your pharmacy price matches. This one is for those of you that don't have insurance. Many pharmacies will price match another drug store's price if you simply ask them to. Even though they may lose a little bit of money, they figure it will pay them in the long run to keep your business.

How do you save money on prescriptions? Do you have any more tips to share? Or maybe you have a question. Please feel free to leave a comment!


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