Optimize Your Dollar: Lowering Your Cost of Prescriptions
Last fall my parents stayed with us for two months. Mom had been telling me and complaining about the cost of her prescription medicines but but until this visit I hadn’t really paid attention. Like a lot of folks, I figured the cost was what it was.
Fortunately, during the visit my Smarter Sister came by and we discussed the rising cost of prescriptions. Smarter Sister had already spent a great deal of time investigating the cost of drugs and alerted us to a number of changes Mom could make.
Today as we look at ways to stretch your dollar I share these ideas with you. Please note: I am NOT a pharmacist. I am a consumer. These ideas may or may not work for you.
- Shop Around for best price: For some reason, I thought pharmacies would charge a ballpark price for each prescription drug, especially generics. I realized my error after Smarter Sis started calling around. One drug I had just picked up for $27 at the corner pharmacy was available for $10 at another. (Yes, I quickly transferred the prescription). And here’s a very important tip for Diabetics: Insulin IS available at one major discount store for about a third the price of every other pharmacy. (If you know someone on insulin who takes it daily help them out, make the calls.) We also found coupons for several prescriptions. Look online.
- Ask about Combo Pills: Pharmaceutical companies saw that many people take multiple pills for related diagnoses and created a combination pill where you can get two drugs in one. Smarter Sis is a nurse so she knew about this already. She looked at Mom’s medicine list and saw there were possibilities which would reduce the number of pills needed each day. In our case the combo pills in one prescription cost less than getting the two separately. There are many pros and cons with these. But check it out. Ask your doctor.
- Ask for Cash Price: Drugstores are in great competition to get your business. Many now are offering very inexpensive generics. We discovered in some cases the Cash Price was less than the negotiated insurance price. Ask. The pharmacies we visited offered the insurance co-pay unless I asked about the cash price.
- Talk to Your Doctor: We found that physicians don’t always know the cost of a drug when prescribing it and sometimes there is one that will work as well at a lesser price. You are your own best advocate. Talk to your doctor about the cost of your medication. If you need a specific medication the manufacturer may have a program for financial hardships. Ask your doctor or do your own investigating. Some of the programs are only available for those without prescription insurance but others only look at the family finances. It’s worth making a few phone calls.
- Consider Canada: I live in Arizona where it’s not a that far to drive to the Mexican border, walk across and purchase needed prescriptions at a big discount. We have many friends who do this regularly. But if you are not near the border or don’t want to cross consider ordering from Canada. Smarter Sis had experience with one company. I admit, I was hesitant, but the one drug we were looking for cost $150/month and was not available for generic in the US. At the Canadian pharmacy they had a generic which cost $47 for three months and they offered a first time user coupon of $25 off making it worth my risk. Turns out it was easy. I faxed the prescription; used my credit card and in three weeks had the medicine. I have renewed the prescription with great results. It does take about a month to get so organization is key.
UPDATE: Some have expressed concern with the purchase of drugs in Mexico. What I state is my personal experience. If one chooses to cross the border it should be with a full education of what is allowed and what is not allowed (for example, one cannot bring a controlled substance back into the US.) Here are a few informational links: FDA (scroll down to Guidance for Personal Use), US Consulate in Tijuana, and Buying Prescriptions in Mexico (a general article on crossing the border.
My last two words of advice: 1)Don’t wait until your parents come to visit before you start thinking about drug costs and 2)It is helpful to have a Smarter Sister around. I’ll share mine with you.
All of these helps are based on my personal experiences. Yours may be different. You must educate yourself prior to purchasing prescriptions on the benefits and risks involved. You may or may not be able to use the generic drugs.
But no matter what else, you are your own best advocate. Talk to your doctor about your prescription options.
A P.S. I was reminded that healthy lifestyle choices, including exercise, and good natural diet, may prevent the need for some medications down the road. Of course, none of us can turn back the clock, so for many these medicines are indeed critical for our well being today.
If you have suggestions to stretch your shopping dollar or questions please let me know.