Medication prices are skyrocketing. Millions of people can’t afford medicines, especially for chronic conditions, such as, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
Prescription drug prices in the United States are the highest in the world. They are significantly higher than medicines sold in Canada, United Kingdom, India and other countries.
Medication price increases have caused problems for many seniors and other people with limited income. Uninsured and under-insured people are struggling to pay for their medicines.
Even people with prescription drug insurance are affected. According to Consumer Reports, 65% of drugs they surveyed were covered by insurance in 2002. In 2008, only 33% of the same drugs were covered. Every year, fewer medications are covered by insurance.
Due to soaring health care costs, Americans with serious health problems usually end up with serious financial problems. A study published in The American Journal of Medicine showed that over 62% of personal bankruptcies in 2007 were filed due to medical debt — and 75% reported having health insurance. Prescription drug cost and other unaffordable healthcare costs contributed to the bankruptcy.
The cost of medicines has caused some Americans to cut corners in ways that are potentially dangerous, including skipping doses, not filling prescriptions or sharing prescriptions with others.
Failure to take medicines they couldn’t afford to get has led to devastating consequences. Some patients suffered strokes and heart attacks which could have been prevented; others have died.
Here are 12 ways to save money on medicines:
1. Ask for generic drugs and other cheaper options. Doctors are not usually aware of how much medications cost. Ask for less expensive but equally effective alternative to the drug you’re prescribed.
By calling the pharmacy phone number listed on your prescription bottle, you can ask your pharmacist to make recommendations and work with your physician.
In addition to generic options, your pharmacist can find alternative drugs for your condition which are covered by your insurance. Your pharmacist can share information with your doctor regarding cheaper medication options available for you as well as their benefits and risks.
Your savings: Almost 80% of FDA-approved drugs have cheaper generic alternatives; they can cost up to four times less than the brand-name versions. You can also save up to 75% by getting medications covered by your insurance instead of the preferred brand-name drugs.
2. Take advantage of generic-drug price wars involving big chains. Be aware that generic prices may be higher in some states, such as California, due to laws against pricing drugs below their cost.
* Target offers hundreds of generic prescriptions for $4 for 30-day supply.
* Wal-Mart offers hundreds of generic prescriptions for $4 for 30-day supply.
3. If you’re experiencing serious hardship and you can’t afford your prescription drugs, talk openly with your doctor. You can review all your medications and discuss if you can switch to cheaper alternatives.
You may be taking medicines you don’t really need. If you see a variety of doctors who don’t know what the others are prescribing, bring all your medications to your primary care physician. Ask if it’s possible to stop taking medicines you may no longer need.
Caution: It’s dangerous to just stop taking your medications without discussing things with your health care professional — it can even be deadly!
4. Consider splitting higher-dose pills. Why? Most medications are not priced according to strength. For example, some cholesterol drugs come in at least three strengths. If your prescription is for a 20-milligram dose, you can split the 40-milligram tablet in half and your prescription can last twice as long.
Caution: Many pills are not safe to split, including capsules, pills with special coating and time-released drugs. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if your medication is safe for pill splitting. If so, ask your doctor to prescribe twice the dosage you really need; so, you can split your pills in half. Some pharmacies can provide pill splitters for free.
5. If you don’t have prescription drug insurance, shop around for the best prices. Pharmacies can charge very different prices for the same drugs. Consumer Reports found that prices for the same bottle of pills can vary by more than $100.
Try negotiating with the pharmacist. If one pharmacy has the best prices in town on all but one of the medications you’re taking, let the pharmacist know and try to get a discount on that one drug. Many pharmacies want long-term relationships with consumers and they’re willing to negotiate with them.
6. Mail-order pharmacies can usually beat the prices of neighborhood drugstores. You can fill prescriptions using costco.com or drugstore.com. If you want to do a price comparison, you can use rxaminer.com.
Mail-order pharmacies can work well for medicines you need to take long-term. However, they may not be useful if you need your medications immediately, such as, antibiotics for an infection.
You can save up to 20% for name-brand drugs and up to 40% for generic drugs by using mail-order pharmacies.
7. You can sign up for patient assistance programs. Many pharmaceutical companies have programs that provide free or deeply discounted drugs for low-to-moderate-income, uninsured and under-insured people.
If you can’t afford a prescription drug, visit the company’s web site to see if they offer assistance. You can also look up patient assistance programs on needymeds.org; the site can provide information on almost 6,000 patient assistance programs. Eligibility and application requirements vary from program to program.
8. You can use discount prescription cards to get reduced prices on medicines. Some cards have monthly or annual fees, but others are free. Be careful if you’re considering buying a discount prescription card because there have been some scams.
NeedyMeds offers a Drug Discount Card for free. It is accepted at over 62,000 pharmacies, including Walmart, CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid as well as other major chains, regional chains and local stores.
The card is active immediately and never expires. There is no income or registration process needed to use the card. One card can be shared with friends and family members.
The discount card is useful for uninsured or under-insured people as well as those who can’t use their insurance; for example, if the medicine is not covered under their health plan, the co-pay is high, the deductible is high or if they reached their insurance cap.
Your savings: The Drug Discount Card from NeedyMeds can save you up to 80% off the price of your prescription medications.
9. Do not take someone else’s prescription drug because it can be dangerous. It can react to something else you’re taking. Your physician may not have prescribed the drug for you because it can make your medical condition worse. Taking someone else’s prescription drug is also illegal.
10. Do not assume that herbal supplements are safe alternatives for your prescribed medications. They are not regulated like medications, but they can also have adverse reactions and can lead to dangerous drug interactions.
11. Switching phamacies repeatedly just to get a better deal can be harmful to your health. Your pharmacy has your prescription history in their computer system and this can protect your safety. Based on your prescription history, the pharmacy computer can catch medication errors and potential drug interactions. If information about your prescription medications is located in different pharmacies, the computer system is less likely to catch potential errors or drug interactions.
12. Do not buy medicines from rogue Internet pharmacies. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there are possible dangers of buying medicines over the Internet.
Thousands of sites are pretending to be legitimate online pharmacies. Using these rogue sites can put you at risk of getting fake, expired and unsafe medications and over-the-counter drugs. Some rogue sites may be trying to get your credit card information to use for fraudulent activities.
Due to safety issues, do not be tempted to buy medicines from foreign-based pharmacies online — unless they have been verified and have met state licensure requirements.
According to the FDA, one way to protect yourself is to buy medicines from legitimate pharmacy websites that carry the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy’s (NABP) Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites™ (VIPPS®) Seal.
Internet pharmacies that carry the VIPPS® Seal are considered safe to use because they have met state licensure requirements and other NABP criteria. Click here to find legitimate pharmacies that carry the VIPPS® seal.
Do not buy prescription drugs from any online pharmacy that doesn’t require a prescription.
There are simple ways to cut healthcare costs that are not potentially dangerous. You can avoid unnecessary health risks and save money on medications by consulting with your physician and pharmacist.
You can maximize your savings by using multiple strategies to decrease your medication costs. For example, you can take advantage of generic-drug price wars involving big chains, such as, Target and Wal-mart. You can also buy insurance-covered medications from legitimate mail-order pharmacies, such as, costco.com or drugstore.com. In addition, you can use your free NeedyMeds Drug Discount Card to get up to 80% savings on medications not covered by insurance.
Due to decreasing insurance coverage for increasingly more expensive prescription drugs, consumers have to be very creative to afford their medicines. Due to tough economic times, physicians, pharmacists and other health care professionals have become more knowledgeable about helping their patients save money.
By being creative, more people can afford the prescription drugs they need to manage their illnesses. Getting these medications can help them become healthier, live longer and improve their quality of life.