How To Save Money On Prescription Drugs

By Mark Di Vincenzo. May 7th 2016

Pricey, blockbuster prescription drugs such as Lipitor and Plavix are dropping in price as generic versions come to market, but new drugs that have no generic competition can be budget busters. According to a recent Consumer Reports analysis, pharmaceutical companies raise the price of their drugs by 88 percent in the five years before the drugs face generics in the marketplace.

Generics are great because they allow many people to afford the drugs they need, but buying generics is only one of many things consumers can do to trim their prescription drug budgets. Read on to find out how to save money on prescription drugs.

Start With Your Doctor

In a recent survey, nearly half of patients said their doctors don’t consider cost when prescribing drugs and surveys of doctors note that they rank price last when prescribing drugs. Doctors very often have no clue what prescription drugs cost. So even if you find it embarrassing, you need to tell your doctor that price matters to you and that you would like him or her to prescribe generic or less expensive drugs.

Buy Generics Whenever Possible

Not only are they cheaper, but they are just as safe and effective and many are available without a prescription. For example, Celebrex costs nearly $300 a month, but generics cost about $20 a month and Advil or another over-the-counter drug with ibuprofen costs less than that. Rather than using Lipitor to lower cholesterol and paying about $100 a month, ask for Lovastatin which costs less than $20 a month. The generic drug Loratadine costs a third of what brand-name drug Claritin costs. When generics aren’t available -- because sometimes they are not – inquire about less expensive drugs that are just as safe and effective.

Divide And Conquer

When your doctor prescribes a drug, ask him or her if you can split your pills. Sometimes doctors prescribe a pill that's twice the normal dose so splitting it makes sense – as well as cents. But don’t split pills without your doctor’s permission and only split pills that are scored and use a pill-splitting device for best results.

Don’t Take Drugs You Don’t Need

If you take more than one prescription drug on a regular basis, talk with your doctor at least once every six months to review the drugs you are taking so your doctor can decide whether you need to continue to take the drugs you are taking or whether you can take smaller doses. Not only will this save you money, but it will lower your risk of side effects.

Buy In Bulk

Ask your doctor for 90-day prescriptions which typically cost less per dosage. Thirty-day supplies will cost you more per pill and getting a 90-day supply can cut your co-pays by 66 percent.

Shop Around

This is good advice whenever you are looking for the best price and prescription drugs are no exception. Big-box retailers such as Walmart, Kmart and Target, warehouse stores such as Costco and Sam’s Club and websites such as,,, and offer good prices. A Consumer Reports survey found that Costco offers the best prices overall. It also found that Kroger, Costco and Walmart charge only $4 for a month's supply of many generics. Some independent mom-and pop pharmacies say they will match those prices for consumers who bother to ask. Watch out for international Internet sites which are unregulated and may legally sell counterfeit or contaminated drugs. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends buying only from state-licensed pharmacies located in the United States. If you shop online, use pharmacies that carry the VIPPS (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site) seal which is awarded by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. Finally, if you live in the Northeast, don’t assume that it’s worth your while to travel across the border into Canada and buy inexpensive drugs. The FDA warns that drugs for sale in Canada are not always less expensive than in the States.

There’s No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

Pharmaceutical companies sometimes offer large amounts of free samples to get you try to a new brand-name drug, but they may end up costing you more long term because they’re expensive. Not only that, but they may not be the best drug available to treat your illness.

Ask For Help

Many pharmaceutical companies offer free or discounted medication through their patient assistance programs. Google the RxAssist directory to see if you can take advantage of one or more of these programs. Also, your state probably has a drug assistance program. Check to see whether you are eligible for it.

Be Wary Of The Drugs You See Advertised On TV

Don’t be wary because more than half of the commercials are about the drugs’ side effects. Instead, focus on the fact that these new drugs are expensive and they often work no better than older, cheaper ones.

Buy Good Insurance

You can save a lot of money with the right drug plan. This requires a lot of homework on your part, but it will be time well spent. Also, find out if you and your family can benefit from Medicare’s or Medicaid’s prescription drug programs.

The bottom line is that there are ways to save money on your prescription drugs. By doing your homework ahead of time, you can see a big difference in you prescription drug costs.


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