Top 17 ways to reduce prescription drug costs

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There are more than 1,400 drugs that are made by 100 manufacturers who have free drug programs. Most major drug companies provide free medications, but rarely, if ever, publicize their programs. An estimated $2...

1. You may qualify for a free drug program.

There are more than 1,400 drugs that are made by 100 manufacturers who have free drug programs. Most major drug companies provide free medications, but rarely, if ever, publicize their programs. An estimated $2 billion of free medication is given away annually. A complete list of drugs and manufacturers’ programs can be obtained by calling 202-478-0481 or visiting

2. Get a pharmacy discount card for free.

AdvanceRx offers a free discount card to anyone that saves 13-25 percent and covers all drugs dispensed at a pharmacy. For details, call 1-800-ADVANCE (238-2623) or got to

There are five free discount cards for senior citizens. The discount cards cover more than 200 popular medications.

3. Save up to 93 percent by asking for a generic

Use generics whenever they are available. Both brand name and generic drugs contain the same active ingredients, are the same in strength and dosage and meet the same government quality control standards.

According to Mark Erblat, pharmacy director and owner of Rx For You, cost savings on brand name vs. generic will vary from drug to drug and pharmacy to pharmacy but can be significant. For example:

Prozac brand 20mg, 100 tablets cost $280.19 and generic sells for $29.99 (Savings 89 percent)

Vasotec brand 5mg, 100 tablets costs $103.59 and generic sells for $18.19 (Savings 82 percent)

Zantac brand 150mg 100 tablets costs $173.39 and generic sells for $10.99 (Savings 93 percent)

Zestril brand 10mg 100 tablets costs $96.29 and generic sells for $39.99 (Savings 58 percent)

4. Veterans now qualify for more benefits.

Recent laws have changed that grant veterans medical benefits for certain illnesses like diabetes and hypertension, provided the veteran is subject to qualifying conditions like Agent Orange exposure. See if you qualify for benefits by checking with the Veteran’s Administration.

5. Cut your costs in half… by using a pill splitter.

Most pharmacies should stock pill splitters. Sometimes, medications can be broken in half and save you 50 percent. The reason is because several pharmaceutical manufacturers price some of their medications the same for all strengths.

Lipitor is essentially the same price for all strengths. It is possible to save as much as $100 on a one month supply of Lipitor just by getting the larger strength and cutting in half. Ask your pharmacist. This method may not be appropriate for all medications and could be dangerous if used with the wrong medication.

Begin by asking your doctor or pharmacist if your medication is available in a dose double your normal dosage. If you usually take a 20 mg. pill, is a 40 mg. pill available? If it is, ask whether there would be any problems with splitting the tablets or capsules.

Next, do a cost comparison between the two dosages. If the higher dose is less than double the cost for your regular dose then you will save money by having your doctor prescribe the higher dose and then splitting it. Cost savings is typically 32-50 percent.

This method is not appropriate for all medications. Check with your pharmacist. Some easily split medications include: Ambien, Aricept, Buspar, Effexor, Lipitor, Luvox, Paxil, Remeron, Risperidal, Seroquel, Serzone, Zoloft, Zyprexa. Ask your pharmacist about others.

6. Save by buying a 90-day vs. 30-day supply.

Most pharmacies have higher savings on a longer supplies. In addition, when it comes to people who have insurance prescription coverage, there may be other savings by getting a larger day supply.

For instance, if you have a $10 co-pay, the insurance company will let you get only a 30-day supply in general for that $10. A 90-day supply bought with out insurance may only cost you $18.

This would be much cheaper than paying $10 per month ($30 for 90 days). It would also save you two trips to the pharmacy.

7. Ask for an older medication that is as effective.

Many pharmacists agree that antibiotics are probably the most overprescribed or incorrectly prescribed medications. Often, the physician will prescribe a newer antibiotic that has been promoted as more effective. What this really means is that it is considerably more expensive.

The newer antibiotics are often no more effective than the older antibiotics. However, they are new and covered by patent protection. Therefore, the newer medication is more effective in ensuring a nice profit for the drug manufacturer for many years.

Since many generics are made in the same factory as the brand name ones, make sure you ask your doctor for a generic antibiotic. A great generic broad-spectrum antibiotic costs 80 percent less than a new antibiotic. In dollars, it costs you $20 instead of $100.

8. Over-the-counter drugs may be as effective as the prescription drug.

Many doctors still prescribe Pepcid 20mg to their patients. A one-month supply of Pepcid 20mg cost approximately $60. Pepcid AC, over-the-counter in 10mg strength, taking double the dose, costs approximately $23.

Most prescription cold medications average $20 to $60 for a one month supply and contain the same decongestant that is available over-the-counter for less than $2.

9. Get only a 7-day supply of new medication.

If the doctor does not have samples, ask your pharmacist to give you only a one-week supply to try. It is a federal law that medicines can’t be returned once they are dispensed. If you get a month’s supply and can’t tolerate the medicine, you have just lost that money.

10. Stop using drugs you no longer need.

Review all your prescriptions with your doctor at each visit. You may be paying for some drugs you no longer need.

Doctor-run provides a custom analysis of your medications to save you money. You can get a free, no obligation, cost screening to find out how much you can save.

Also ask your pharmacist to review your medications in addition to your doctor. A pharmacist’s valuable services and knowledge are free. He may also find something your doctor missed.

Don’t hesitate to ask your pharmacist questions, their advice is free and can often save you money and aggravation. Ask questions about side effects, and drug interactions.

11. Order your prescription drugs by phone.

You can save 20-50 percent by ordering prescription drugs over the phone. Bonus — you do not have to pick them up at the pharmacy.

Make a list of your medications, including strength and number taken daily. Then list at least six pharmacies you are going to call. Don’t forget about discount mail order sources, too. Then call and get prices, ask if this is their best price available. Compare the costs.

12. Pay attention to the quantity.

Find out how much medication you really may need, and make sure your doctor doesn’t order you more medicine than is necessary to treat your condition.

13. Ask your doctor for samples at every visit.

They usually have plenty.

14. Take only those drugs you really need.

When your doctor prescribes medication for you, understand exactly what it’s meant to do and for how long. If you are prescribed two drugs for the same symptom, ask if you really need both.

15. Buy home test kits.

Kits for determining ovulation, pregnancy and colorectal cancer, can be purchased as home tests instead of paying twice as much for similar kits at your doctor’s office.

16. Cross the border.

If you live close to either Canada or Mexico, you can buy some medications in either country for 75 percent off the U.S. price.

17. AARP members are eligible for many discounts, including mail-order pharmacy discounts.

Ask for an AARP discount.

If you have questions about these tips or your medication ask your doctor and pharmacist.

Courtesy of

Posted 7:25 pm, October 10, 2011
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