We’ve all heard the horror stories. A year ago, Turing Pharmaceuticals raised the price of prescription drug Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 per tablet. And last month Mylan Pharmaceuticals started charging $600 for a 2-pack of EpiPens – a hike of more than 400%. These extreme examples may be the exception to the rule, but there’s no doubt the cost of many medications has gone up in recent years — and it’s still climbing.
Roughly half of all Americans take at least one prescription drug and if you aren’t one of them, you surely know someone who is. To make matters worse (for a demographic that can ill afford it), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that a significant number of seniors take five or more prescription drugs.
According to a survey of around 5,000 Americans over age 70, reported by the Journal of General Internal Medicine, many seniors on a limited budget, or those taking high-priced medications, were found to ration their prescription use. When faced with a choice between other necessities such as food and utilities, it wasn’t uncommon for seniors to cut back on their meds by taking a fewer pills, cutting them in half or skipping doses. Some stopped taking their medications entirely; a potentially life-threatening quandary.
Maybe the high cost of prescription drugs is affecting your livelihood — or that of someone you know. Maybe you just like the idea of saving money. Either way, here are some tips on how to save money on your prescription drugs.
Choose a generic when you can
Generics are required to meet FDA standards in regard to five key elements: identity, quality, strength, purity and potency. They’re made from the same active ingredients as their brand name counterparts, but are generally priced much lower. Small variations may occur, but FDA requirements dictate that the medications must perform the same. And the good news? Studies have shown there’s no significant difference between generics and name brands.
Even better, consumers can save a lot of money by buying the generics. Here’s why. When pharmaceutical companies initially create a drug, they need to invest a lot in research, development and marketing. For that, they get rewarded with a certain period of time to sell the drug with no competition from generics. But by the time generics hit the market, those initial costs all but disappear for the drug companies that make them, making their costs lower — a savings they can pass on to the consumer.
Compare your health insurance options
Does your health insurance cover prescription drugs? Not all insurance plans do. And prescription drug coverage is not all created equal. Balance the benefits of each overall plan, of course, but be sure to take a close look at the co-pay and deductible for each medication you take. In addition, if a prescription cost seems high, it doesn’t hurt to ask what the cost would be without insurance – or when paying by another method. You may be surprised.
Talk to your doctor
Physicians aren’t always up on the cost of the prescription meds they prescribe. If you feel as though a drug is prohibitively expensive, tell your doctor your concern. He or she may be able to prescribe a suitable alternative. If not, they might have samples they can share with you —at least until you see whether that particular drug actually works for you.
Use online prescription coupons
Printable online coupons such as GoodRx can lower your drug costs significantly. There’s no charge to the consumer, and the coupons are accepted at most pharmacies throughout the nation. Not only that, the website compares and lists the price of the specific drug at various pharmacies. You can use the coupon at your usual pharmacy or have each scrip filled wherever it’s cheapest.
Take a good look at those GoodRx pharmacy prices. . Is there one that offers a lower price on most drugs? If so, consider switching. Also be sure to ask your pharmacist about any prescription programs they may offer. Walgreen’s for instance, offers a prescription card for $25 (single) or $35 (family) that results in lower prices on most drugs — sometimes even cheaper than your insurance. An added bonus is that many store cards also apply to pets that take “human” medications such as antibiotics, insulin, or anti-anxiety meds.
Don’t skip doses
While it may seem like it makes perfect sense to spread out your doses to make the prescription last longer, don’t do it! If you don’t use the medication as directed by your doctor or pharmacist, you risk losing out on its benefits and effectiveness. And that could ultimately cost you more money by requiring you to take additional drugs to alleviate your symptoms or by causing complications that lead to surgery or worse.
You may not find dirt-cheap prices for all your prescriptions but there are a lot of ways to save — if you just take a little time to investigate your options.