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Master Your Medicine: How to Lower the Cost of Your Prescriptions

A doctor and pharmacist spill their prescription cost-cutting tips.

Following a treatment plan prescribed by your doctor is undoubtedly important. It gives you the best opportunity to manage your condition and maintain the best possible health for yourself. But what do you do if you can’t afford the medicine your doctor recommends?

With prescription medications getting more and more expensive, this is a concern for many people. If your medicine is too pricey, you may not want to fill your medicine in the first place, you may try to ration the medicine you do have, or you may procrastinate getting your next refill. While you may think these tactics are saving you money, they’re not—and they’re also not doing your health any favors. 

Here’s the good news: When it comes to affording your medications, you have options. “You don’t need to decide between groceries and filling your prescription,” says Preeti Parikh, MD, HealthiNation’s chief medical editor and a pediatrician at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

Here are four goldmine tips for lowering the cost of your medicine so you can get the care you need:  

TIP #1: Compare, compare, compare!

Prescription drug prices aren’t regulated, so they vary among different pharmacies—sometimes as much as $100.

“When purchasing a car, you would not buy the first car that found. You would go shop around and find the best deal,” says Punkaj Khanna, Pharm. D., a pharmacist based in New York City. “Well, same goes for drugs.”

So how can you find the best deal? There are many online tools and apps—such as ScriptSave WellRx—where you can compare drug prices based on your zip code.

TIP #2: Clip those coupons.

Ready to save even more? “There are many coupons available that can help you save on your medicine costs,” says Khanna. Drug discount cards can also be helpful if you can only pay for part of your prescription.

You can find both coupons and drug prescription cards online or with prescription price-cutting mobile apps, such as GoodRx.

Some pharmaceutical companies also offer drug discount cards for certain patients. If you know the company that makes your medicine and would like to find out more, each of the phone numbers listed below is set up to take calls from patients:

  • GlaxoSmithKline Orange Card: 888-672-6436.

  • Eli Lilly and Company's LillyAnswers Card: 877-795-4559 or www.lillyanswers.com.

  • Novartis Care Card: 866-974-2273 or www.careplan.novartis.com.

  • Pfizer for Living Share Card: 800-717-6005 or www.pfizerforliving.com.

  • TogetherRx Card, a joint drug discount card that offers savings on selected medications offered by Abbott Laboratories, AstraZeneca, Aventis Pharmaceuticals, Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, GlaxoSmithKline, Janssen Pharmaceutica Products, Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical, and Novartis: 800-865-7211 or www.together-rx.com.

TIP #3: Consider a 90-day supply.

At the grocery store you may buy cereal or nuts in bulk to save money, so why not do the same with your medicines?

Depending on your treatment plan: “Instead of getting a 30-day supply, you can get a 90-day supply and that will help you save money,” says Khanna.

“Not only would this reduce the number of trips that you would have to take to the pharmacy, if you have insurance, you would only have to pay one co-pay instead of three,” says Khanna.   

What’s more: If you have insurance or Medicare, you could get your 90-day supply delivered to you by mail. (Note: To switch to 90-day fills, you'll need a new prescription from your doctor. A 30-day quantity prescription will not allow 90-day fills.)

TIP #4: Have a conversation with your doctor.

You may be embarrassed to tell your doctor that you can’t afford your medicine, but remember they’re there to help you. “There are many things that your doctor can do to make the prescriptions more affordable for you,” says Dr. Parikh. Your doctor can:

  • Offer generic medication over a brand

  • Adjust your dosage (if appropriate)

  • Or recommend a different, more affordable medication.

Also, ask your doctor about patient assistance programs (PAPs). If you don’t have insurance, these programs can help you afford your medication.

“Filling and taking your medicine is as equally important as a healthy lifestyle,” says Dr. Parikh. “You should work with your team—which includes you, your doctor, and your pharmacist—to make sure you get the medication that you need.”  

Punkaj Khanna, Pharm. D.

This video features information from Punkaj Khanna, Pharm. D.. Punkaj Khanna earned his Pharm.D. from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. He works at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and has special interests in patient education and compliance.

Preeti Parikh, MD

This video features information from Preeti Parikh, MD. Dr. Parikh, a board-certified pediatrician affiliated with The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, is HealthiNation's chief medical editor.

Duration: 2:16. Last Updated On: April 4, 2019, 5:03 p.m.
Reviewed by: Mera Goodman, MD . Review date: March 25, 2019
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