How to Get Medications for Less

The best way to reduce your prescription drug costs is to follow a healthier lifestyle. Improving your diet, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and quitting smoking can improve your health enough that you may be able to give up or take lower doses of expensive medications.

The following strategies from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can help you cut your prescription costs significantly.

Ask for generics

If your doctor prescribes a brand-name drug, always ask if there’s a generic equivalent. Generics retail for 30 to 80 percent less, on average, than brand names and usually have lower co-pays.

Generics meet the same FDA effectiveness and safety standards as their brand-name counterparts.

Shop around

Prices can vary dramatically from neighborhood pharmacies, large retail chains, and online sources. Many pharmacies offer some generic prescriptions for as little as $4 for a 30-day supply. There may be restrictions or limitations so ask for details.

If your health insurance has a drug plan, include it in your cost comparison.

Split the difference

Some pills shouldn’t be split, such as those with time-release coatings. But depending on what you take, you may be able to cut your costs by asking your doctor if it's okay to split a higher-dosage version of your medication. If you can do this, be sure to use a pill-splitter device. Don't break pills with your fingers as they may break unevenly and result in an inaccurate dose.

Order in bulk

If you take a medication daily, buying a 90-day supply instead of a 30-day refill can reduce dispensing fees or co-pays.

Ask for substitutes

If you’re taking a brand-name drug for which no generic is available, ask your doctor if you can switch to a less expensive drug in the same category.

In some cases, you may even be able to take an over-the-counter (OTC) drug instead of a prescription.

Do the math

Find out from your prescription drug plan what your out of pocket expenses will be when filing your prescriptions.

Ask for samples

Your health care provider may be able to get you started on a medication by providing samples of that medication. Be aware, though, that samples are usually only available for newer brand name drugs and, when the samples are gone, the medication may cost more than another effective medication that is available as a generic.

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