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A Spoonful of Savings Helps the Medicine Go Down: How to Save Money on Medications

Wealth of Geeks 3/25/2023 Gary Weiner

© Provided by Wealth of Geeks

When you don't feel well, whether it's a random headache, a temporary infection, or a chronic illness getting you down, the last thing you want is to spend a bunch of money to feel better. The cost of medicines and prescriptions has been going through the roof, but what choice do you have if you're in need? Here's how to save money on medications you need.

Saving Money on Medication

For many, taking medication daily is a way of life.  The good news is that there are several ways to help save money on medications. Unfortunately, depending on the types of medications you take, they can really eat up a big chunk of your budget, but it doesn't have to be that way.

Here are some tips to help control costs and save money on medications.

Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medications

OTC medications are those that you can buy without a prescription. They include pain relievers, allergy medicine, cold & flu remedies, cough treatments, and first aid products.

Because these are non-prescription medications, you don't have to have a prescription filled by the pharmacist. Most OTC medications are easily accessible to consumers and can help treat symptoms of common ailments quickly, alleviating the need for expensive prescriptions.

Saving Money on OTC Medications

Still, even OTC medications can be expensive, so take time to compare the retail prices among all of the major drug chains and supermarkets in your area. In some instances, the difference in prices may shock you. While prices themselves may be regular, sale prices, loyalty card discounts, coupons, and other discounts can often impact the prices dramatically.

In addition, check online prices as oftentimes prices differ online and in-store. If you find a price discrepancy, you can save money, by asking the store to price match their online prices.

Check With Your Insurance

Depending on your insurance plan, Medicare and Medicaid members (and even others) may receive an allowance to help them save money on OTC products like vitamins, pain relievers, cough and cold medicines, first-aid supplies, and more.

To determine if this allowance is included with your plan, go to the "Coverage and Benefits" section of your plan. Some plans can give you money or credits to spend each quarter, even hundreds of dollars. This can be true even if your supplemental plan has no premium cost to you at all.

Even if you are happy with your current insurance plan, it's important to review it each year, as changes often occur from year to year.

Read Labels

When buying OTC medicines, always read the labels to determine the active ingredients and how much is included (both dosage and number of pills). This will help you compare prices on various remedies that accomplish the same thing.

Consider Generics

Generics, or store brands, are typically less expensive than their brand-name counterparts with the same active ingredients. Always do the math to determine which product will save you the most (surprisingly, the brand-name medicine with a coupon can cost less than the generic).

Check Expiration Dates

If you have any medication in your medicine cabinet, check the dates before use. You may need to replace it before using it.

Prescription Medications

When the doctor has written you a prescription, whether you have health insurance or not, you are likely to pay more than you would for an OTC medicine. Sometimes it's a one-time prescription, such as an antibiotic to cure an infection, but other times it is a maintenance medication used for a chronic condition.

Obviously, maintenance medications will have a greater impact your budget, and thus, offers a greater opportunity to save money on medications you purchase repeatedly.

Again, Consider the Generic

Unless your doctor has specified the brand-name medicine only, you may have the opportunity to take a generic drug after the patent for the brand-name drug has expired. These medications are chemically identical, but at a much lower cost.

To find out if there is a generic equivalent for your medication, consult your pharmacist or Drugs@FDA for a catalog of FDA-approved drug products, including their drug labeling.

Check Manufacturers' Programs

If there is no generic available for your medication, look on the manufacturer's website (or check RxAssist or NiceRx) to see if there are any assistance or co-pay programs you may qualify for.

For expensive medications, the manufacturer will often contribute to reducing your co-pay, or in the case of government-insured patients, offer a limited amount of medication for free, such as one month's dosage.

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Free Prescription Discount Programs

You have probably seen many ads for discount prescription deals such as GoodRx where you can check to find discount deals on your medications at no cost or fees, with no memberships or commitments.

Savings are used at your pharmacy with a discount card or a coupon that you can get online and save as much as 80% on your prescription. You can even use any of these discounts if you are on a Medicare plan (note they are not used in conjunction with your Medicare plan, but instead of your Medicare plan for a particular prescription.)

The only negative is that if you use your special discount, that cost will not be counted towards your Medicare plan medication expense coverage which affects what is known as the "donut hole." That's the time during the year when coverage is less and you have to bear that expense to reach what is known as "catastrophic coverage" which then makes medications very low cost.

Although for most, this will likely not be a concern unless they are chronically ill and spend many thousands on medicines every year.

Saving money with these discounts may be way more valuable to you than escaping the donut hole, which may ultimately not be needed.

Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drugs

Shark Tank celebrity investor Mark Cuban recently launched a new pharmaceutical drug company that provides affordable medicine to uninsured and underinsured Americans.

The service, called Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Company, is continually adding generic medications to its mail-order pharmacy website and currently has over 700 different kinds of prescription medications.

Their mission statement says, "We will provide low-cost, high-quality pharmaceuticals to the consumer…by any means possible," is music to the ears of anyone struggling to afford their medication.

While generics are not aviailable for every medication, they are adding new ones all the time. Search for your medication, to see the exact price plus shipping costs. They do not accept insurance, you simply pay the cash price shown.

Low-Cost Prescriptions

Check out Walmart's $4 prescription list and other pharmacies (particularly supermarket chains) where they offer low-cost (and sometimes even no-cost) prescriptions.

Split Pills

Try splitting pills. With certain medications, you can safely split pills in half to save money. How does this save you money? When you take a lower dosage (let's say 10 mg) of your medication, which is also available in a higher dosage (let's say 20 mg), there is generally little or even no difference in the price of the two dosages. So buying 20 mg pills and splitting them in half would save you half the cost of your prescription.

If you split pills, use a pill splitter that is made for doing so, and don't do it without one, otherwise, you may not divide the dosage properly (some pills are scored to show you exactly where to divide them).

However, not all medications can be safely split, so talk to your doctor or pharmacist to see if this is an option.

Ask for Samples

When you are starting a new medication, always ask the doctor if they have samples available for you to try. It is a waste of money to buy a month's prescription only to find out after a week that the medicine doesn't work for you or causes unbearable side effects. By trying the samples first, you don't need to spend your money until you're confident that you've found the right medication.

Ask for Alternatives

Keep this in mind that pharmaceutical sales reps are always attempting to influence doctors to prescribe their medications to patients. Sometimes this results in doctors prescribing new medications to their patients without being aware of the high cost.

In these cases, ask your doctor if alternatives are available. An older (and cheaper) medication may sufficiently treat your condition without emptying your wallet.

Check for Benefits

Some manufacturers have special programs for to get medication directly from them at a reduced cost for those that qualify. Find their website online and see about these programs if you need help.

Use NeedyMeds to find additional financial assistance programs, or if you're a senior or disabled, check the Medicare or Social Security websites for help and information.

Final Thoughts

If you find your prescription medication costs overwhelming, make the effort to find ways to save. Never jeoparidze your health by skipping meds or go without.

Prevention is always the best medicine when it comes to your health, so prioritize your health before you need any drugs. But if you do need costly medication follow these tips and enlist the help of your doctor or pharmacist as needed. When you save money on medications, it will help keep you and your budget healthy in the long run.

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