Everything is costing more, and prescription drugs are no exception. According to Kaiseredu.org, from 1999 to 2009, the number of prescriptions purchased in the United States increased 39%. Retail prescription drug prices increased on average 3.6% annually between 2000 and 2009.
What accounts for the soaring cost? A combination of factors: an increase in the number of prescriptions written; the use of more expensive, brand name drugs; price increases; forceful marketing and advertising campaigns for new drugs; and patients who request specific prescriptions from their doctors. The excitement over newer drugs must not overshadow the need for affordable and accessible prescription drugs however.
There are actions you can take to control your own prescription drug costs. Here are 10 tips that may help you save on your prescriptions.
#1) Generic Versus Brand-name Drugs
Ask your pharmacist if there is a generic equivalent available for the drug your doctor has prescribed. Generic and brand-name drugs contain the same active ingredients. Generic drugs are considered safe and effective overall, but there can be subtle differences in how they are formulated. Bottom line: It is worth it for you to try generic drugs since they can be considerably cheaper.
#2) Obtain Larger Quantities
Some pharmacies give you a price break when drugs are ordered in larger quantities. Ask your doctor to write your prescriptions for a 90-day supply, rather than a 30-day supply.
#3) Shop Around
Not all drugstores are created equal. Price variation exists between competitors. Call or ask for a price quote before filling a particular prescription. While a particular drug may be cheaper at one store, a different drug may be cheaper at another store. Online pharmacies are an option, too.
#4) Choice of Medications
The drug industry keeps coming out with new drugs, but newer is not always better. For example, Celebrex belongs to the category of NSAIDs known as COX-2 inhibitors. Older, traditional NSAIDs may be equally effective for you. The cost of newer drugs is higher, but if the drug is not more effective for you, why pay more? Talk to your doctor about which drug may be right for you.
#5) Strength of the Pill
Consider the price of a higher-strength pill. If a drug is more commonly prescribed in the 20 mg strength, but you have been prescribed 10 mg, would it be cheaper for your doctor to prescribe you the 20 mg strength and you can split them in half? A price break is usually given to drugs that are more commonly prescribed or more commonly available. Check with your doctor about pill-splitting, however. It is not always safe or recommended to split pills (like enteric coated tablets).
#6) Borderline Drugs
Some people are saving by crossing the border into Canada or Mexico and purchasing cheaper drugs. This was a very popular option several years ago, but since then there have been warnings issued.
#7) Drug Assistance Programs
Many drug companies offer drug assistance programs for people with medical and financial need. Once again, not all programs are created equal. Check with the drug manufacturer to see if such a program exists and if you qualify.
#8) Government Programs
Many states offer a drug benefit with Medicaid. Check with the Medicaid office in your state to see if you qualify.
#9) Discounts, Free Samples, and Coupons
Take advantage of everything available to you that will result in saving on prescription drug costs.
- Mail-order pharmacies sometimes offer discounts for groups, such as AARP, the American Association Of Retired Persons.
- Your doctor usually has a collection of free samples. Ask if your doctor has free samples available for the drug you are taking.
- Don't forget about coupons. Drugstores sometimes offer coupons to try to win your business.
#10) Know Your Insurance
Know the details of your health insurance coverage. Know the extent of the benefits, co-payments, and annual caps. Determine which drugs are on the formulary list of your insurance company. A formulary is a list of approved drugs. Typically, formularies are less expensive than drugs not on the list.
Clearly, it is the objective of every patient to obtain the most effective treatment for the best possible price. By considering the 10 tips and implementing those that apply to your situation, you will be making an effort to control your prescription drug costs -- hopefully with success.
Prescription Drug Costs. Kaiseredu.org. Updated February 2010.