Money Saver

How to Lower Your Prescription Costs: 13 Legitimate Ways to Save

Written by Amy Boyington | May 21, 2021

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Most of us know firsthand that prescription drugs can be costly. The U.S. alone spent an estimated $358.7 billion on prescription medications in 2020. But because they're often needed to treat or control specific health conditions, they're also a necessary expense for many. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that adults have been trying different strategies to lower their out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs, such as not taking their medicine as prescribed and opting for alternative therapies. But, these options aren't always reliable or safe.

If you didn’t already know, there are better ways to slash your prescription bill while getting the medicine you need. The tips below will tell you how.

1. Do a Price Comparison

Whether you just started using your pharmacy or you've been a loyal customer for years, there's no reason to feel stuck there. Some pharmacies offer better prices than others for certain prescriptions, and yours just might be on the list. One Consumer Reports secret shopper study showed a wide range of prices for just one medication from six different pharmacies, with a low of $23 to a high of $220 for a one-month supply.

That's a big difference for one medication; imagine how much you can save if you shop around for all your prescriptions! Walmart is known for having excellent prices on many of its prescription medications, but it's always a good idea to call around to ask about prices for your specific prescriptions.

2. Track Prescription Prices — and Get the Best Deals

With the prices of many prescriptions skyrocketing, it's never been more important to stay on top of drug prices. GoodRx and other similar deal hunters can help you do just that. The company tracks the prices of thousands of the most used prescription drugs across top pharmacies, like CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens, to find you the best prices.

Download the app or search on the website for your prescriptions. Then, browse through the results to find which pharmacy has the lowest price. You can also print off a free coupon to use each time you visit to get a discount. It's important to note that you can't use GoodRx and similar services to lower your copays with insurance, but you can always ask to bypass insurance if the GoodRx price is cheaper.

3. Let Your Doc Know Your Situation

Most of the time, having a transparent chat with your doctor can put some money back into your pocket. Medical professionals know that healthcare can be costly, but your doc may not know your financial situation unless you share it. If you simply can't afford a medication you need, let your doctor know.

Your doctor can likely find a generic version or a similar drug that's more affordable. Some medical offices also have financial assistance available for eligible patients in need. And, your doctor might even have coupons for your prescription to discount your bill at the pharmacy.

4. Ask the Pharmacist for Help

Sometimes you’re at the pharmacy and get hit with a bill much higher than you were expecting. Fortunately, pharmacists are often willing to help you lower your prescription bill if you explain that you want something more affordable.

Ask the pharmacist if there are generic versions of your medication or something similar that you can switch to. The pharmacist may need to call your doctor to approve the switch, which could take extra time. Still, you could end up saving money. Pharmacists sometimes have coupons readily available for customers, so it never hurts to ask for ways to save.

5. Sign up for Loyalty Programs

Does your pharmacy offer a loyalty program for regular orders? Most of them do! CVS, for example, has a program called ExtraCare that gives credits for refilling prescriptions. Use your credits to get money off on future prescriptions. The Wellness+ program from RiteAid is another popular program that pays points for prescriptions and purchases to rack up savings.

Shop around for the best loyalty program just like you would prescriptions. Most pharmacies list the details on their websites. And, if you use more than one pharmacy, you can always sign up for each loyalty program to make sure you get the rewards you've earned.

6. Try Mail Order Instead (It's Convenient, Too!)

Mail order pharmacies are becoming more and more popular. It's super convenient to refill your prescriptions online and have them sent directly to your door. Insider secret: They can sometimes be more affordable, too.

Check with your insurance company to see if it partners with a mail order pharmacy. If so, you can probably save some money ordering your prescriptions there. This is especially true with prescriptions that are available in 90-day supplies rather than 30-day supplies.

7. Ditch the Prescription and Shop for Vitamins Online

Your doctor may order prescriptions for vitamins that you can buy over-the-counter. Sometimes, prescriptions are the cheaper way to go because your insurance might cover part of them, but that's not always the case. You could find the same type of vitamin over-the-counter for a lower price tag, but you won't know unless you do some price comparisons.

Check out online vitamin and supplement retailers, like Vitacost and Pure Formulas, to see what you can find without a prescription and compare their prices with your prescription out-of-pocket costs. If you do find a supplement or vitamin that seems to be a match, be sure to check with your doctor first before ordering it. Some aren't an exact replica in terms of ingredients or dosage, and it's important to make sure you're getting the right thing.

8. Lower Your Bill with Coupons

Pharmacies are similar to retail stores in that they set prices, but that doesn't mean that's the price you need to pay. They do accept coupons. Head to the pharmacy armed with coupons to reduce your out-of-pocket costs.

Find coupons in circulars you get from the newspaper or in your mailbox. Look for promotions in your mail that come directly from local pharmacies, too. You can also visit the pages for specific pharmacies and stores with pharmacies, like Walgreens and Kroger, on Savings.com to find promo codes for prescription costs.

9. Visit Pharmaceutical Websites

Did you know that the company that makes your medication might offer its own discounts? Usually, you can find them on the company's website, but some companies have separate websites solely for discounts.

For example, Pfizer has Pfizer RxPathways, a site that lists its medications and links to the sites where you can find assistance with copays, coupons, and other savings. Novartis offers a patient assistance program where people who can't afford their medications can get a 30-day supply for no more than $30 a month, or just $1 a day. If you're not sure which company makes your medication, ask your doctor or pharmacist. Then, do a quick Google search: "[company name] + coupons."

10. Check With Your Insurance Company

Many insurance companies have specific rules about prescriptions and pharmacies, including which pharmacies are in or out of network, whether you need a pre-approval, and how many months of a prescription you can get at one time. Always check with your company for the details before filling a new prescription to make sure it's covered and how.

You can also call your insurance company to see if there's an alternative medication to your prescription that can save you money with your plan over what your doc prescribed.

11. Get More at One Time

Your health insurance company may have better coverage for certain medications if you buy more at one time. Most prescriptions are offered in one-month supplies (30 days), but some are available as 90-day supplies, enough to get you through three months of a long-term medication. Not only will you pay just one copay every three months, but your copay might work out to be a little less than if you were to pay it monthly.

This is something you can ask your doctor and your health insurance company about before heading to the pharmacy to fill your prescription. The doctor's office might even be able to check your coverage for you before you leave.

12. Consider Switching to Sam's Club (You Don't Need a Membership!)

Shopping for most things at Sam's Club requires a membership, but you don't need to be a paying member to utilize their pharmacy. Even better — its pharmacy is known for having some of the best prices on prescriptions.

Now, if you are a member, you can enjoy even more savings, especially as a Plus member. Sam's Club offers Plus members some generic medications, like Metformin and Donepezil, for free, while more than 600 other generics are $10 or less.

13. Change Your Lifestyle

Changing your diet or exercise plan may not drop the need for all your medications. However, it can help certain conditions. Losing weight, staying active, and eating healthy are all excellent ways to improve your overall health, which could help you get off some prescriptions and lower your bill each month.

As an example, one study followed men and women with high blood pressure. One group followed the DASH diet and a weight management plan for 16 weeks, effectively lowering their blood pressure significantly. A group that followed only the DASH diet also decreased their blood pressure, while those doing neither the DASH diet nor weight management plan saw minimal blood pressure changes.

Talk to your doctor about what you can do before going on a prescription. For some conditions, more physical activity and better eating might be all it takes to avoid medication.

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