12 Ways To Save On Drugs: Cut Your Medication Costs

by The Smarter Wallet on April 18, 2009

With escalating costs for medical services and pharmaceutical products, what can we do, as consumers, to save some money on our prescriptions (or even over the counter drugs)?

prescriptions, drugs, medication

Following are a few tips that you may consider, but be mindful that you’re not jeopardizing your health even as you try to save a few bucks. These tips are very general, so before heeding any of them, make sure you confirm with your doctor that these cost cutting measures can apply to your particular situation. After all, health problems can trigger the costliest of expenses, and your health is something you’ve got to be careful about when you decide to cut corners; not to mention that it would be pretty unpleasant both physically and financially, if by misusing your medications, you end up aggravating your medical condition.

12 Ways To Save On Drugs: Cut Your Medication Costs

1. Watch the stores for discounts.
Keep an eye out on coupons and sales offered by your pharmacy or grocery store. Ask your pharmacist if you qualify for any discounts.

2. Buy in bulk for ongoing medications.
If you’ve got an ongoing chronic condition, it may actually make sense to buy a larger supply of your medication at once, as you could get price breaks by doing so. Check your local wholesale shopping club if they carry what you need.

3. Buy generic.
I hear this a lot — that you can save money with generic drugs, since many generic and OTC drugs contain active ingredients that are identical to those that are of a specific brand (what differs are usually the inert ingredients). If you’ve got a choice between a cheaper generic vs a branded drug which both contain the exact same active ingredients, it may make sense to switch to the cheaper variety; but be certain that the effectiveness of the drug is not compromised.

4. Buy over the counter.
Some medications may not need a prescription. Check with your doctor or your pharmacist for options; let them know you are being cost conscious and would prefer to look into cheaper alternatives. If there are pros and cons between the OTC drug vs the prescribed drug, your physician will let you know, and it would be up to you to make the decision if the savings are worth it.

5. Buy through mail order.
If you know the exact drug that you need, you can do the research and find out where they are offered. Are they available for purchase online? In my case, I had been taking a prescribed drug through my doctor for sometime. Essentially, my health care provider was selling me the medication, but little did I know that this treatment could be had from Amazon for a better price (without the clinic’s “cut”)! Well, now I know where to make my orders!


6. Should you split your pills?
Again, it’s a good idea to ask your doctor about the possibility of splitting the pills that are prescribed to you. In some cases, the medication you receive may actually be available in pharmacies at twice the dosage than what is prescribed for you, but at the same price. If so, then ordering the higher dosage pills and splitting them may be a worthwhile cost-cutting move. Take note that certain medications are not great candidates for this strategy, such as those that are on time-release and those that are packaged as capsules.

7. Can you take your medication less frequently?
This is something that you may want to ask your doctor as well. It may be fine for certain conditions.

8. Compare and switch brands.
It bears repeating that it pays to be flexible: be on the lookout for alternatives. For instance, you may be accustomed to taking Advil but if Ibuprofen in some other brand (e.g. Motrin) is available for less, then why not go for the cheaper option? Again, comparison shopping and checking the stores for discounts (tip #1) are good frugal habits to have.

9. Go natural.
There are certain health conditions that may be reversible without the need for medication. I believe that we could very well be overmedicating ourselves when we trust our doctors completely by surrendering to medical treatments without question. Case in point: I had a chronic health condition that plagued me for 3 years which got worse with prescribed medications. By simply going “natural”, by following a path towards health using natural healing strategies, by living a healthier lifestyle and reducing stress, I was able to reverse my condition. Of course, not everyone may be able to resolve an illness without medication, but it’s an avenue that one may consider exploring with the help of health professionals of other orientations.

10. Pick up medications from abroad.
The cost of drugs in the U.S. is known to be higher than in other countries. You may be able to find other sources for your medications in other places, such as Canada, where prices can be much more affordable. However, you must proceed with caution when trying this route, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns consumers that there can be risks involved with buying drugs outside of our borders (e.g. there could be issues with potency, identification, dosage, etc). So tread carefully.

11. Use your health savings account appropriately.
Do you have an HSA, FSA or HRA through your employer? Check out the details on each type of account and use them to your financial advantage when purchasing medications. I had an FSA (Flexible Spending Account) when I was employed, and it allowed me to pay for prescriptions and medications using pre-tax money.

12. Check out MedTipster!
And finally, you may want to take a look at this interesting tool that I came across. MedTipster is designed to help you track down more affordable alternatives to prescription drugs, primarily through discounted generic programs. I found it pretty informative, so do check it out and let us know what you think of it.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Helene May 25, 2009 at 12:01 am

Thanks for your contribution to Take Charge of Your Health Care Carnival. These cost saving tips will be helpful to my readers. Keep in mind that generic prescriptions must meet the same standards that brand name medications meet. Another case for generics is that it is safer to try older and proven medications than the latest drug that has just been introduced by the drug companies especially in terms of side effects.

2 joy October 8, 2009 at 1:54 am

The way I save on my prescription drugs is by buying generics. I get from International Drug Mart and I save more that 40% on my bills.

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