11 Ways to Slash Prescription Costs
But it doesn't have to be.
There are ways around paying full price for a one-time antibiotic or a long-term medication. Depending on your income level, you might not have to pay at all.
I've compiled a list of 11 tactics for reducing drug costs. One or more may help you keep medical costs in check.
A better price upfront
1. Ask for generics. Wal-Mart first offered $4 prescriptions back in 2006, and other stores have followed suit. Ask your doctor if any of the meds you take have effective generic equivalents, then see if they're on the reduced-price generic lists. A site called MedTipster has a pharmacy search engine for discounted generic medications.
2. Request a price match. When I wanted to switch my $10-a-month thyroid meds to a $10-for-three-months plan at a different drugstore, the pharmacist offered to give me that price, just to keep my business. See if your current provider will match another pharmacy's rate. It can't hurt to ask.
3. There's an app for that. Sites like LowestMed and GoodRX will help you compare prescription costs in your area.
Coupons for drugs?
4. Split pills. Taking 10 milligrams of a medication? You might be able to buy 20-mg pills for about the same price, then cut them in half. Talk with your doctor about this, since not every drug can be safely divided.
5. Use coupons. Check magazines in the doctor's waiting room for discounts on prescriptions or free 30-day trials. Or visit websites like Optimizerx.com.
6. Switch drugstores. Some pharmacies offer free gift cards if you transfer an existing prescription or bring in a new one. This is worth it only if the drug price is comparable to what you're already paying.
7. Get a discount card. Optimizerx.com and The Together RX Access program provide savings from 25% to 75% off for the uninsured.
8. Order online. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website, it is illegal to ship drugs into the United States not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The law requires that medications "have their formulation approved by FDA, be made in a plant registered with FDA and be produced under quality standards enforced by FDA."
Otherwise, you might not get what you paid for. According to the Mayo Clinic website, some Internet orders have "turned out to contain no active ingredient or to contain the wrong medicine."
Thus you should order only from online pharmacies in the United States. While there are excellent online pharmacies based in Canada, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy notes that some shady northern outfits source their drugs from countries where standards are lax and counterfeit pills more common.
To find out if an online pharmacy is approved, check its name through LegitScript.com. A site called PharmaHelper.com will find you the best price among NABP-approved online pharmacies.
Can't afford your pills?
9. Get free drugs. Retailers such as Publix and Meijer offer some prescription drugs -- including prenatal vitamins, ACE inhibitors, Metformin and certain antibiotics -- completely free.
10. Ask for samples. If money is tight, say so. Your physician might have 10 days' worth of antibiotic samples on hand. Even a month's supply of a maintenance medication eases the financial burden.
11. Apply for free meds. Pharmaceutical companies make medications available to low-income Americans. The nonprofit Partnership for Prescription Assistance can help you find sources to get medicine cheaply or even free if you qualify. NeedyMeds provides info on how to find low- or no-cost medications and