Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Prescriptions Are Like...Purses?

Prescriptions Are Like Purses
Prescription drugs are a lot like purses. Really…you could buy a Gucci purse for $800 or you could buy a cute purse at Target for $25. Do they both carry your wallet and cell phone? Since they do the same job it comes down to personal preference and how much you are willing to spend for that purse. Well the same thing is true with prescription drugs. There are brand name drugs and generic drugs. Most work the same, so the difference is price and personal preference. I’ve listed tips and suggestions to help you make the best and most cost-effective decision when it comes to your medications.

Most doctors are just concerned with your health and what the best medical solution is for you. Having a conversation with your doctor and asking questions can enable you to get the best treatment possible while still keeping your budget in mind.

1. Before you start a prescribed drug it could be worth it to ask are there any lifestyle changes I can try before starting a drug regimen? Why pay for drugs if a change in diet and exercise can rectify the problem.

2. Can I take a generic drug instead? Older drugs, which will usually be generic versions, are often as effective as newer ones for certain conditions but are usually a lot less expensive.

3. Try before you buy. Before you pay for an expensive name brand drug, it could be a good idea to ask your doctor if s/he has any samples you can try. But keep in mind that samples are available because they will always be the newest and most expensive brand-name drugs, and after the free samples run out, you are more likely to continue buying that brand. If you already have a prescription, it’s not too late to consult your pharmacist about filling it with a generic.

4. It may be worth asking your doctor if you can split higher-dosage pills in half. Some medications cost about the same, per pill, no matter what the dosage. However, not all medications can be split safely. For instance, drugs that have special coatings or are slow-release should never be cut in half: you could wind up with side effects or a dosage that's too high.

Once you’ve worked with your doctor to determine which prescription is best for you there are still ways to save money.

1. If you have insurance, your health plan might work with a company that provides cheaper mail order prescription drugs in bulk. Other mail order pharmacies cater to the uninsured; provided you meet the income eligibility, and you can get drugs at steep discounts. Mail order pharmacies save you trips to the pharmacy, and that's especially important for people who are homebound.

2. If you have a low income, there are hundreds of different programs available that might get you cheap or free medications. One group that provides information about these programs is NeedyMeds at

3. Shop around. A grocery store may fill 10 prescriptions a day while a warehouse pharmacy fills 1000, yet the overhead costs of staff and keeping shelves stocked are comparable. As a result, Sam’s and Costco prices could be lower and you don’t need to be a member to use the pharmacy.

4. Manufacturers regularly offer printable coupons for dollar-off discounts, free trials, and co-payment reductions on many brand-name medications. There are also money-back mail-in rebates and savings. Make sure you present prescription coupons to the pharmacist BEFORE you fill your prescription. Check out this link for current offers:

5. A Healthcare Flexible Spending Account, or FSA, is a reimbursement account available through many employers. It allows you to set aside money from your paycheck for health care costs each year before taxes are taken out. The money is then used to reimburse healthcare expenses not paid for by your health insurance plan during that calendar year. Healthcare FSA funds can be used for prescription co-payments and many over-the-counter (OTC) medications and products.

6. You can get free gift cards if you use pharmacy coupons to transfer your prescriptions from drugstore to drugstore.* Centsable Momma does a great job of updating all the current prescription coupons.

* Keeping all your prescriptions at one pharmacy allows the Pharmacist to alert you if you are taking drugs that may interact with each other. If your prescriptions are in different locations please be extra careful to let your doctors know what drugs you are taking and to check on interactions.


Martha@A Sense of Humor is Essential said...

Thank you for this excellent post and these are all things I recommend to my patients as a RN case manager and also for our personal Rx needs.

Anonymous said...

I'd watch out for free samples. They'll be the expensive drugs the reps are trying to push.

I agree about Costco having good prices. But I get those same good prices at many stores by using a prescription discount card. I found a good one at They even post drug prices on their website to check before you enroll with them.