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Drugs: How To Save Money When Buying Or Using

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Following is a list of a variety of ways to save money on drugs, each of which are more fully described in other sections of this article. (After clicking to read more information, hit the back button to be returned to this part of the article)

  • Let your doctor know you are trying to save money on drugs and that out-of-pocket cost is important to you. Your doctor may be able to prescribe a less expensive version of the drug which does approximately the same thing as the drug the doctor would otherwise prescribe. 
  • Look for free or low cost drugs. For example
  • Look for financial assistance.
  • Explore the possibility of obtaining medications through the health coverage of your spouse or domestic partner, or of a parent. 
    • Because of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), dependent coverage for young people extends until they reach age 26, 
  • When purchasing, consider the following money saving ideas:
    • Do not assume that getting a drug through your health insurance is the cheapest way to obtain a drug. You may be able to buy a discount generic drug at a store for less than the co-pay on your insurance policy. For example, Costco, CVS, Target, Walgreens, Walmart. (How To Shop For The Lowest Price)
    • Purchase a test supply to see how the drug works for you before purchasing a full supply.
    • Once you know a drug works for you, consider purchasing a longer supply of a drug - for example, a 90 day supply instead of a 30 day supply. This is known as "bulk" purchases.
    • Consider purchasing a larger version of the drug and splitting the pill (this does not work for drugs in capsule form)
    • Do not assume that a chain store price is the cheapest. Exception: Costco generally is the least expensive - and you do not have to be a member to use its pharmacy (though if you join you can get more discounts.)
    • Negotiate price with the pharmacist (just as you would when purchasing a car.)
  • Consider alternatives to a prescribed drug such as:
  • Look for discounts, including:
  • Shop for a low price
  • Consider negotiating price if a drug is expensive or your annual drug bill is large (or asking a relative or friend who is good at negotiating to do it for you). 
    • At the least, ask for cheapest price the pharmacy offers. (An option: gather several people who together spend a substantial amount of money on drugs each year. Negotiate as a group.)  
    • As an alternative to a discount, or perhaps in addition to a discount, ask for freebies such as toiletries or other items the pharmacy stocks. One purchaser who spent a lot of money on drugs a year reportedly received a free week in the sun from his pharmacy.
  • If you are insured, do not assume that buying a drug through your insurance is the cheapest alternative for you. For example, you can purchase a month's supply of the generic version of Prozac at a big box store like Walmart's for only a few dollars - likely less than your co-pay.
  • If there are no other options for obtaining the drugs you need, consider the following - particularly if the drugs would be life saving, consider the following ideas:
    • See if you can take steps to qualify for Medicaid.(Medi-cal in California). (For example, give you assets away or convert them into assets that do not count for eligibility.)
    • Consider getting married, for instance, if you are living with some one, and his or her health insurance only covers spouses. Not all marriages, or domestic partnerships for that matter, are entered into solely out of love and devotion. 
    • Think about relocating to a state with programs for which you would be eligible. You may even wish to consider moving to a country that supplies free medical care - for example, Canada or England. Be sure to do your research because immigration laws vary widely and moving to a new country is not as simple as packing your bags and hopping a flight. There may also be residency requirements before free medical care starts.

Before purchasing a drug that is new to you, check Consumer Reports' Best Buy Drugs. To earn a Best Buy designation, a drug must be at least as effective and safe as other medications in its class and must be less expensive. The reports are based on unbiased, independent scientific evidence. If an analysis of studies shows that a brand-name drug is notably safer or works better than a lower-cost medicine, it will be deemed a CR Best Buy regardless of its price. To access CR's Best Buy Drugs, go to www.ConsumerReportsHealth.org/BestBuyDrugs offsite link (A subscription is required. You can purchase an inexpensive monthly subscription and end it after you get the information you need.)

*  If you have a fear of generic drugs, consider the following from Consumer Reports: "To get approval from the Food and Drug Administration, a generic-drug maker must prove that its product contains the idential active ingredient as its brand-name counterpart and that the drug is "bioequivalent," meaning that as much active ingredient enters and leaves the blood stream as fast or as slowly. Generics that meet those criteria should have the same therapeutic effect as brand- name drugs. The FDA regulates generics just as it does brand-name drugs and monitors them once they're on the market. To date, the FDA has found no difference in the rate of adverse reactions between generic and brand-name drugs."

NOTE:

  • For the drugs you have, reevaluate expiration dates. As a general rule, stated expiration dates are much shorter than when a drug stops being effective.
  • Keep receipts in case you can deduct Medical Expenses. (To learn about deductible medical expenses, click here.)
  • As part of the real cost of drugs, also consider the following which can save money:
    • Minimize the cost of obtaining a written prescription. (To learn how, click here.) Maybe you don't need the expense of a a visit to a doctor.
    • Do your part to help minimize costly medical error relating to the drugs you take. To learn how, click here
    • Do your part to help avoid over medication which can also result in unnecessary costs and side effects which cost money to treat. To learn how, click here.  
    • Keep in mind that, contrary to our instincts about price, the cost of a drug does not necessarily relate to its effectiveness.
  • Consider eating well, exercising and getting rest. The better you treat your body, the better chance the drugs can do what you want. Maintaining your health to the best of your ability maximizes your body's ability to fight illness, to help maintain your immune system and ward off other common ailments and the costs that go with them.

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