More Americans than ever before in are legally taking prescription drugs. Pharmaceutical prices are increasing about 8 percent per year – more than four times the rate of wage growth and inflation. Consequently, if you want the top brand name pharmaceuticals, you may, depending on what your health plan covers, be paying a hefty chunk of change to get them.
Fortunately, there are more affordable alternatives that are just as good as the original. Generic substitutions of drugs no longer under patent have the same ingredients as their brand-name counterparts. So when consulting with your physician about your prescription, inquire what cheaper alternatives might be available.
Here are several ways you may be able to save money on pharmaceuticals.
Discount prescription drug programs are among the most common ways to reduce your drug costs, with or without insurance. Here are a few examples.
GoodRx is a free program honored at thousands of pharmacies across the country. Visit goodrx.com and enter your prescription to view comparison prices from pharmacies in your area. You can also print coupons and save an average of 80 percent on your prescription medication costs.
Drug Store Alternatives
Popular retailers such as Costco and Sam’s Club may be a good choice for a bargain. Both retailers carry numerous brand-name medications at roughly half the price you would pay at some other pharmacies. The pharmacies at Costco and Sam’s are open to the public, even if you are not a club member.
Check with the warehouse clubs, grocery stores and pharmacies in your area to do some comparison shopping.
The co-pay conundrum
There was a time when physicians could prescribe a three-month supply of a drug and you would get a quarter year’s supply for a single co-pay. Many insurance companies no longer allow this because of the Affordable Care Act, but you should check with your provider and find out.
If your provider won’t cover a long-term supply of your medicine, you can ask your doctor to prescribe a generic for a three-month supply, then pay for it without using your insurance. This may be less expensive than paying three separate co-pays.
Generics and other alternatives
If your doctor prescribes something for which the price seems outrageous, counter his suggestion with a request for a cheaper but just as effective drug. Always ask your doctor if there is a generic option. Asking that simple question could save you as much as 80 percent.
Consumer Reports has a site on which you can research safe alternatives to commonly prescribed drugs. Visit Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs (link: consumerreports.org/health/drugs-a-z/best-buy-drugs/index.htm). They report on several categories of drugs and offer common alternatives that can save you money.
Prescription plans for less
The following retailers offer the opportunity to save significant money on pharmaceuticals.
Publix.com – Free 14-day supply of select antibiotics
Walmart.com – 30-day supply of select generic drugs for $4, or a 90-day supply for $10
Target.com – 30-day supply of select generic drugs for $4, or a 90-day supply for $10
NeedyMeds.org – Free drug discount card accepted at more than 60,000 pharmacies
AAA.com – Drug discount card for members accepted at more than 52,000 pharmacies
This article was originally published in Community Health for Fidelity Health Marketplace.