Sticker shock? How to Save Money on Prescription Drugs
You brace for bad news as the pharmacist rings up the charges for your prescription medicines. Even with insurance, you’ve discovered that copayments add up and put a big dent in your budget. If only there were a way to cut costs.
Across the nation, countless thousands of people face the same challenge. With the need to stretch every dollar, some people consider taking half doses of medicine or taking a full dose every other day. Unfortunately, that can put health at risk.
Other people consider filling their prescriptions through pharmacies outside of the United States, a practice discouraged by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Virtually all prescription drugs imported for personal use are sold in violation of U.S. laws, according to the FDA. These drugs may not be:
- Approved in the United States
- Labeled correctly
“There’s significant risk,” says FDA spokesperson Christopher C. Kelly. “Sometimes, sellers from outside the [United States] don’t follow our standards in labeling drugs for safe and effective use. Consumers might not be getting proper information about how to take the drug and/or about side effects.”
A better way to save money is to talk with your doctor. He or she can check your insurance plan’s formulary. A formulary is a list of medicines your plan helps you pay for. Two or more equally effective medicines may be on the list, but one may have a lower copay. For example, a generic drug often can replace a brand-name medicine and save you money. Generic drugs contain the same active ingredients as their brand-name counterparts. They’re also just as safe and effective, according to the FDA.
- Shop around. Prices can vary among pharmacies. Make sure you’re comparing the same dosage and quantity.
- Do the splits. Some higher dose pills cost nearly the same as lower dose ones. You can save money by splitting them in half. Ask your doctor if this is an option, and follow his or her directions.
- Search online. If you stay with licensed U.S. pharmacies, you can buy medicines safely over the Internet. Compare prices and look for the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) seal from the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. The VIPPS seal means the online pharmacy meets licensing and inspection standards.
- Ask about discount or assistance programs. Some drug companies, state health departments and pharmacies offer discount programs. Your doctor or pharmacist can point you in the right direction.
- Buy in bulk. Ask if you can save anything by buying a 90-day supply of your medicine.