Every year, Americans spend $1,200 on prescription drugs. That translates to paying more per individual on medication than in any other developed nation across the world.
When you need to purchase drugs you had not accounted for, the one-time cost can put a severe dent in your bank account. Many families are grappling with rising drug costs and, therefore, need tips on how to save when buying medication.
Keep reading for some ways you can save money on prescriptions when you next need medication.
1. Consider Switching to Generic Medication
A generic drug is one designed to be a copy of a name-brand counterpart.
Generic drugs possess the same dosage as the name-brand drug they are fashioned after. They also are administered in the same way as the name-brand drug, cause the same effects, and are for the same intended use as the original.
What makes generics cheaper is their manufacturer did not have to undertake costly research and development.
While not all drugs have a generic equivalent, those that do contain the same active ingredient as the original but are 30% to 80% cheaper.
Make sure you inform your doctor or healthcare provider beforehand that you prefer generics. You don’t have to wait till you visit the pharmacy to seek generics.
2. Look Into Your Drug Copays
Learning about your insurance copays can help you cut on medication costs as it gives you more visibility into the pricing nitty-gritty.
Copay pricing varies widely. Most plans have a tier 1 copay for generics (and ‘preferred’ tier 2 drugs) that can range from $10 to $25. Tier 3 copays are typically for name-brand, ‘non-preferred,’ or non-formulary drugs.
If you aren’t aware, you might end up spending up to $100 for tier 3 copays when you can get a tier 1 alternative instead.
3. Shop Around
It is surprising how much you can net in cost savings when you compare the prices of different drug stores.
The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) ran a study that found many drug stores sell common medications at vastly differing prices.
Since these stores do not advertise their prices publicly and are not required to, they have more discretion when charging prices.
Where you shop also can influence drug prices. In many cases, buying your medication from small and independent drug stores is cheaper than getting them from big-box chains.
4. Manufacturer Savings Initiatives
In some cases, there are drug manufacturers who come up with programs to help their consumers access drugs at better prices. These initiatives, also known as prescription assistance programs (PAPs), tend to target the underinsured or those who lack any insurance.
The medications that PAPs tend to subsidize are typically those that come with hefty price tags. To locate these programs, you can look up online platforms that collect and post information on PAPs by drug type.
For those who do not have insurance backed by the state but are still insured, there are manufacturer-led options to enable cheaper drug access. You may qualify for drug savings cards that are allocated on an individual basis.
5. State Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs
State pharmaceutical assistance programs (SPAPs) are initiatives run by the state to enable a specific category of people to afford their medication.
SPAPs are specially designed to reach people who are uninsured or underinsured and can’t qualify for PAPs. SPAPs also look out for those who earn too much money to qualify them for Medicaid or don’t make the cut off for Medicare Extra Help.
Not every state runs an SPAP, and you will have to confirm if it’s available for you. Where SPAPs exist, not every drug is covered.
6. Make Smaller, Cheaper Orders
Not many consumers know that some tablets can be broken. For some pills, ordering them at a higher dose, and splitting them in two can help you cut costs.
The line in the middle of the pill is there to ensure you accurately cut the pill in half, where possible. You can also use a pill cutter for this purpose.
Before you use this strategy, it is wise first to consult your physician and avoid any potential problems. That’s because some pills (like those with a time-release formulation) are as effective when you cut them.
7. Medicare Extra Help
If you use the Medicare part D plan (which covers prescription medication), you stand to qualify for the Extra Help program. The program helps eligible buyers get drugs at lower prices.
To qualify for Extra Help, you need to have at least one of the following:
- A Medicare notice that allows you to enroll for the Extra Help program
- A Social Security ‘Letter of Award’ for the Extra Help program
- A Medicare notice that declares you eligible for Extra Help
- Be the recipient Medicaid assistance and/or Supplemental Security Income
Consumers under the Extra Help program pay a maximum of $2.65 for generics and $6.60 for original drugs.
8. Use a Mail-Order Drug Service
An online, licensed drug store is one way to cut costs as you don’t pay extra due to the overhead a physical store incurs. A mail-order drug service can also save you the cost of going to a physical store, which, if it’s out of your way, can add up over time.
You must ensure the mail-order drug service you plan to use has the proper credentials.
To this end, confirm that the service holds a license from and practices in the United States. Additionally, you should check that they require you to have a filled out and valid prescription for each order.
A legitimate mail-order drug service must also possess a Verified Pharmacy Practice Site (VIPPS) certificate and employ real people you can consult.
9. Take Part in Free Trials
Developers of brand-name medicines usually offer first-time users an opportunity to try the drug out for free. To participate in such a program, you should go to the drug manufacturer’s website for more information on the requirements and duration of active free trials.
Save Money on Prescriptions
Prescription drugs have become increasingly expensive, with the United States being the developed nation spending the most on medication. To save money on prescriptions, you can combine discounts from manufacturers with state and federal programs meant to help you spend less on medication. Being a thrifty buyer can also help cut down your prescription bill.
If you want to learn how to take better care of yourself, check out more of our content for healthcare hacks that work.