An estimated 49% of Americans report using at least one prescription drug in the last 30 days, and a staggering 19% report that they have skipped taking a prescribed medication, or taken less drug than indicated, because of the drug’s high cost.
The cost of prescriptions has more than doubled in the last ten years, and medication costs top the list of concerns that Americans have regarding their health care.
Too many people struggle to pay for needed prescription drug regimens. They often end up waiting to fill a prescription, taking less medication to make it last longer, or deciding not to fill a prescribed drug at all.
In next week’s blog, I’ll discuss some of the key points on why prescription drugs are so much more expensive in the United States as compared to other first world countries, and I’ll suggest a few possible solutions. But that’s a whole other blog subject, and that’s best left for next time.
Today, let’s discuss what patients can control. There are steps that individuals can take to reduce their own medication costs, regardless of the drug regimen their physicians prescribe.
Here are seven simple ways to reduce the cost of your prescriptions:
Ask for ONLY Generic Drugs: Although all medications do not have generic equivalents available, many do. By switching to a generic version of a brand-name drug, you can save up to 80%. I take two prescriptions to lower my blood pressure, and the generic versions save me a bundle.
Know Your Prescription Plan Coverage: Each drug insurance plan has its own formulary of drugs that they cover. Those drugs are tiered by costs. The higher the tier, the higher the copay. Ask your doctor if a drug that costs less would work as well. That less expensive drug usually means a drug in a lower tier that may work just as well. For me, I used to take a medication that was a combination of two drugs in one pill, and that combo was only available as the expensive branded drug. I found that by asking my doctor to order the two drugs separately instead of in the branded combo form, I could get the two drugs as generics and that saved me considerable money.
Use Mail Order Prescription Plans: Many drug plans allow for mail order service, and there is usually a three-month order option. Use this for drugs that you take on a regular basis. By ordering a 90-day supply, you could save up to a third on the copay costs.
Use the Preferred Pharmacy for Your Prescription Plan: Most drug coverage plans these days have contracts with national pharmacy chains. The copay costs are often lower when you use these contracted (called “preferred”) pharmacies. Additionally, an estimated 36% of large employers have a preferred pharmacy that has agreed to provide extra discounts to their employees.
Use Prescription Discount Cards: There are many discount cards available that offer significant savings on your prescription drugs. I had a situation in which I used such a discount card when filling a prescription for my mother-in-law. Her prescription plan did not cover a specific drug and the cost was well over $100 for a month’s supply. I told the pharmacist that she could not afford that and he found a prescription discount card online that he could use when filling her prescription. That discount card lowered the drug’s cost to around $10. I was astounded and very thankful for that pharmacist thinking outside the box! It should be noted that these discount prescription cards cannot be used in combination with health insurance plans, including Medicare. So, if your prescription drug plan does not cover a drug, ask your pharmacist if there is a discount card program that might be used instead to lower the drug’s cost.
Seek Assistance: Many pharmaceutical companies offer financial assistance programs to patients who cannot afford expensive medications. These programs sometimes cover the entire cost of the prescribed drug. These programs are need-based and there are several. Here are links to a few: pparx.org, PatientAdvocate.org, and NeedyMeds.org.
Cut Pills When Safe: Instead of getting a 5mg version of a drug, ask your doctor to prescribe the 10mg version and cut the pill in half. Many medications are scored down the middle to allow an accurate split. There are also inexpensive devices available for purchase in most pharmacies that will split the pill for you. Please note that some medications are the time-release type, and these CANNOT be cut because it would allow the entire dose to be delivered at once rather than gradually. Always ask your doctor or pharmacist if a pill can be split safely before doing so on your own.
By taking some of these simple measures, I’ve cut my monthly medication bill by more than 70%, and you can take steps to control the cost of your prescriptions also.
Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!