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Tightwad Tuesday: How to Find Cheap Prescription Drugs

by Shawanda Greene

Prescription pills and moneyPrescription drugs play a large role in making health care unaffordable. Learn how to find cheap drugs with these easy to use strategies.

Ask your doctor for free prescription medications

Doctors receive samples from drug company sales representatives. When recommending a new medication, your doctor may provide you with a free sample to try out. If you and your health care provider determine that a certain prescription medication is effective, then ask them for free samples when you visit. The worst they can say is “no.”

Consider taking generic medication

Express to your doctor that you’re interested in pursuing treatment options that are more cost effective. The latest, most expensive medication may not be the best for you. If a prescribed drug doesn’t have a generic alternative, then ask your doctor about a prescription medication that does.

Remember. You don’t have to fill all of your prescriptions at the same pharmacy. Some large retailers, such as Wal-Mart and Target, sell generic drugs for as little as $4.

Increase the size of your prescription

Unless specifically asked, many doctors will only write a prescription for a 30-day supply of medication. A 90-day supply could save you money. Some prescription drug plans are set up such that you, essentially, receive a month’s worth of medication free when your prescription is filled  for 90 days. For example, purchasing three 30-day supply prescriptions may cost $60, while one 90-day supply prescription would only cost $40.

Check your health plan documents, or call your insurer to find out. Note that this technique doesn’t work if you’re prescribed controlled substances.

Hunt for coupons

You may be able to find a coupon on the web for a free 30-day supply of medication on your first filled prescription. Check the medication’s website to see if coupons are offered by the drug manufacturer. Also, coupons are sometimes attached to drug samples, so keep a look out for those as well.

Take advantage of a Flexible Spending Account (FSA)

An FSA is an employer sponsored benefit that allows you to set aside a predetermined amount of your earnings for qualified medical expenses. Money funneled into an FSA is, generally, not subject to federal or state income taxes, Social Security, or Medicare. A savings of 40% using this strategy alone isn’t unrealistic.

Delay non-essential medical treatments and surgeries, e.g., laser eye surgery, until you can increase the amount reserved in your FSA.

Any unused funds left in a Flexible Spending Account at the end of the calendar year will be forfeited. So, carefully plan how much you need to put in an FSA before the new year begins. To be conservative, I recommend setting aside just enough to cover the annual cost of prescription drugs.

Enlist the help of drug companies

Some drugs companies offer free medicine. Both Merck and Pfizer have programs that may offer financial assistance to those struggling to pay, primarily the uninsured, for prescription drugs.

Request a discount or coupon for transferring your prescription

Check the drug store’s website or weekly circular to see if they provide an incentive to transfer your prescription. Sometimes you can find these coupons on eBay. If you still can’t find a coupon for transferring your prescription, ask the pharmacist to give you a discount anyway. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

Although healthcare continues to be one of the largest expenses for many Americans, it’s good know you don’t have to pay full price for prescription medications. Try to combine as many of the strategies above as possible for maximum savings.

What techniques do you use to save on prescription drugs?

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Andy Hough August 24, 2011 at 1:47 PM

I rarely need prescription drugs but at my last doctor's visit he gave me a bunch of samples. That way I can determine if the medicine is helpful before paying for a prescription.

Reply

Shawanda August 25, 2011 at 8:02 PM

The best samples are the ones for medication you know you're not going to need on an ongoing basis.

Reply

Doctor Stock August 24, 2011 at 2:44 PM

You know, I don't usually give much thought to this aspect of my life, but you've got some great ideas there… including, increasing the size of the prescription (rather than a refill), and asking the doctor for free samples… which, I know they often receive. Good article, thanks.

Reply

Shawanda August 25, 2011 at 8:04 PM

It also cuts down on the number of visits to the pharmacy. Although I'm less than a mile away from mine, I really have a hard time dragging myself to the pharmacy.

Reply

Tushar August 25, 2011 at 1:18 PM

I never get samples from my doctors. I have asked though.

Reply

Shawanda August 25, 2011 at 8:06 PM

That stinks. Next time, ask her/him if (s)he has a coupon. I've received coupons for as much as $20 off.

Reply

FamilyMoneyValues August 26, 2011 at 11:25 AM

Nice post – hopefully my need for prescriptions won't increase dramatically as I age, but it's good to have these resources!

Reply

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