Unaffordable Rx: 9 Ways to Save

In the U.S., prescription drug prices continue their meteoric rise. The truly outrageous increases hit the national news outlets and some result in congressional hearingsFor example, Mylan, the maker of the life-saving EpiPen allergy-reaction injector, increased the price of its two-pack from $100 in 2009 to $608 in 2016.Nitropress, a common blood pressure drug, rose more than 300%, soaring from $214 to $881 last year. On average, drug prices have doubled in the last decade, according to AARP.

Simultaneously, insurance company formularies of covered drugs have narrowed, while co-pays have increased. This double-whammy has hit older Americans the hardest, as they use more medications than any other age group. Many retirees with limited income are faced with deciding whether to spend their limited funds on needed medications or on food.

As this situation will continue to worsen in the future, it’s getting more important to find ways to obtain the medications you need at better prices.

I recently needed a skin cream not covered by my insurance plan that was $272. With a little research, I was able to buy that branded medication for $70 – a savings of 75%. Let’s look at 9 ways to save.

Discount Rx Coupons

An Internet search will show you many discount Rx coupons. Two I have used are available on Singlecare and GoodRx Be sure to compare the prices of these discount sites as they can vary, sometimes substantially.

Pharmaceutical Company Programs

Many large drug companies (Pharma) have patient assistance programs with varying qualification criteria. Organizations that connect consumers to these programs include NeedyMeds, PpaRx and Patient Advocate.

Generic Drugs

Generic drugs are always less expensive than branded ones. Beware, however, when your insurance plan changes from one version of a generic to another. Generics are not always comparable and may have unexpected side effects.

For example, a friend who was on a generic blood pressure medication was switched to one from another company. The new drug caused breathing problems. If your pharmacy switched you from one generic to another, contact your doctor before accepting the replacement drug.

Insurance Plan Optimization

If you have drug coverage by an insurance plan, use preferred pharmacies for better prices. Some also offer 90-day supplies at a discounted price.

Medicare Assistance

Enrollees in Original Medicare with limited income may be eligible for Part D assistance.

Switch Incentives

Local pharmacies often offer financial incentives to switch from a current pharmacy to theirs. Incentives can be as much as $30-40 per prescription.

Doctor Samples

One of the ways Pharma ingratiates itself with doctors is to provide them with free drug samples. Consider asking for a sample for short-term use.

Split Pills

Some tablet medications lend themselves to easy division. If you need a 10-mg dose, ask your doctor to write a Rx for 20 mg, and then use a pill splitter to divide the dose. Take the first half one day, followed by the second half the next day. Don’t divide the entire bottle, as that may result in too many inconsistent doses.

Online Pharmacies

It is legal to import a 3-month supply of prescription medications from Canada to the U.S. Pharmacy Checker provides a list of certified pharmacies. Savings on branded drugs can be as much as 80%.

All large Pharma have manufacturing plants distributed around the globe, where overhead is dramatically lower. These foreign plants, however, must meet the same manufacturing standards for FDA-approved drugs as U.S. plants. The one I have successfully used is Quality Prescription Drugs.