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7 Insider Tricks To Save Big On Prescription Drugs

Now, more than ever, prescription drug prices are expensive—especially if you have high out of pocket costs.

Specialty drugs, single source branded drugs, and repack- aged generic drugs are all escalating in cost (7 percent per year, two times the Consumer Price Index). Remember the EpiPen story? A low-cost generic solution was repurchased and repackaged by Mylan. Then, the drug manufacturer increased it from $70 to $600 without offering any product enhancements—just price increases! 

If you aren’t aware of how to mitigate those costs, you might be needlessly throwing away thousands of dollars a year. Even if your insurance plan offers drug coverage, you can still use these tips to save even more money. The first step is to understand how drug manufacturers price their drugs and why they’re being prescribed.

The Questions To Ask Your Doctor To Save Money

If you’ve been to the doctor recently, you know that most visits end with you getting a prescription. 

Why is that? 

If you stop and think about it for a second, it makes sense. You go into the doctor expecting to be cured, and you want to walk away with something tangible that tells you you’ll get better. There are other things you could be doing to feel better, but that’s a topic for another post.

So when it comes to prescriptions, what can you do to save money?

Where To Start: Ask Your Doctor These Questions

  • How much does it cost?
  • Can the pharmacist substitute a cheaper, generic form of the medicine?
  • Are there cost-effective alternatives to this medication?
  • Does the drug company offer any discount or rebate programs?
  • Does the drug company provide a prescription drug assistance program?
  • Can you prescribe a half-year or year supply so I can buy in bulk?

Insider Tricks To Save Money On Prescriptions

So, how can you get the best price on your prescriptions? Think about it like anything else you would buy and SHOP! Here are some insider tips and tricks to save money:

Turn to big box stores.

Wal-Mart,Kroger,Costco,and even Amazon are getting into the drug business. Their goal is to get you in the door (or on the website) by any means necessary. For example, about a decade ago, Wal-Mart accomplished this by selling generic amoxicillin for just $4. Consumers came for the dirt-cheap drugs and, while they were there, bought orange juice, milk, and chicken noodle soup. It’s a straightforward model, and it still works today; you can find good deals on basic drugs at big box stores.

Use Price comparison tools

Check with your insurance plan for comparison tools. If you don’t have one with your plan or are uninsured, check with the following: GoodRx, One RX, or use our partner SingleCare’s tool on our How to Save page. They all will provide pricing for prescriptions at their negotiated prices. Compare them all. You’ll be surprised to find they are different. Also, compare one pharmacy location with one in another area of town. Sometimes there is different pricing, so it pays to look.

Note: When using one of the discount cards with your health plan, make sure the drug is on your formulary (approved drug list). Research the discount programs for the exact drug. Ask you pharmacist what the cost of the drug is through your health plan. If the discount card is lower, use it instead of your health plan. Then file that drug as a claim. You can access claims through your health insurance carriers’ web portal. It’s worth the extra effort. Check it out.

Use Over-the-Counter (OTC) First, Then Generic, Then Compare Brand vs. Brand 

Generics are generally cheaper than brands. Unfortunately, you need to be aware of the industry’s trend to “patent stack” generics, significantly increasing their price (EpiPen). Therefore, check the over-the-counter alternative. Many times, the prescription for a generic scripted drug is about convenience (for instance, take one pill a day instead of two or four). Remember, you pay for that! 

Also, check multi-source brand drugs (where there are multiple branded drugs, no generics, treat- ing the same symptom) and determine which has the highest efficacy: best price, similar medical outcome.

Get Your Prescriptions Through Mail Order

If you’re on a maintenance drug and your plan offers a mail order program, you may be able to save some money. If your plan has copays for a thirty- day supply, check what the copay is for the mail order at ninety days. It could be less, so it’s worth trying.

Also, the mail-order pricing may be more attractive than the retail.

Buy In Bulk. Get Your Doctor To Prescribe For Longer Periods

Did you know your doctor can prescribe a years’ worth of maintenance medication versus a thirty- or ninety-day supply? They can, and it can save you a lot. Use the highlighted shopping tools for a twelve-month supply. Currently, you can buy a year’s supply of atorvastatin, a generic statin heart medicine, for 20 percent less than buying a thirty-day supply each month for a year.

Buy In Higher Dosage And Split The Pills

Getting a higher dosage and splitting the pill may be less expensive. Ask your doctor, pharmacist, or insurance company if higher dosage and pill splitting would work in your situation.

Use Patient Assistance Programs (PAP)

RX HOPE is a website that lists over two hundred single source drugs that offer patient assistance programs based on income or for those participating in a high-deductible plan—i.e., 50 percent of the country in 2017. 

These plans will offer coupons with sometimes dramatic price reductions for a set period of time. I previously highlighted the Eliquis savings, which was through a PAP ($4,440 savings/year). You can also contact the manufacturer of the drug directly and ask for avail- able coupon plans. 

These are real techniques that can save you hundreds, even thousands of dollars on your prescription drugs. If you’re worried about talking about costs with your doctor—don’t be. It’s a conversation that is non threatening to them, it’s not like you’re challenging their diagnosis or treatment. Plus, they want to provide you with the best service possible, and if that means facilitating you saving on prescriptions they absolutely want to do it!

Navigating the health care system isn’t always easy, but this checklist gives you the tools you need to start saving.

Let us know what you think!

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