Modern medications are expensive. As the pharmaceutical companies are quick to point out, the research and development costs of new drugs are enormous, and must be recouped through the sale of those drugs when they reach the market. The drugs that do make it to the market also have to cover the research costs of the drugs that don’t. It all adds up and means that for patients, especially those with chronic conditions, medication can be a heavy financial burden. How can that burden be lightened?
What to Avoid
First, it pays to mention a couple of the traps that patients can fall into. The obvious temptation is not to get the medications that your doctor has prescribed, or to get them but to stretch out the time they will last by not taking the full dose. Not to take the drug makes going to the doctor in the first place rather pointless, and messing around with the correct dosage can be dangerous.
Another temptation is to turn to the internet for alternatives. This is not in itself a mistake, as many online providers do offer genuine prescription drugs at a lower price, but you need to be extremely careful. There are many rogue traders out there who are willing to take your money for poor quality substitutes.
Work with Your Insurers
If you are insured, then you will probably have some form of co-pay arrangement whereby the cost is split between you and the insurer. Make sure that you understand the way this works, what proportion you pay, and what restrictions there are. If you are uncertain contact the insurer’s helpline and ask them to explain.
Don’t assume that a part payment with insurance will automatically be cheaper than the full price at the pharmacy—it may be cheaper just to hand over the money.
If you are eligible for Medicare, Part D arrangements will help with prescription costs, so make sure you know what is available.
Work with Your Doctor
Your doctor does not necessarily understand everything about your financial situation. You may be prescribed a famous brand name drug because it has proved popular, but there might well be a generic version of exactly the same drug that is much cheaper. So ask if that is the case and explain that you prefer the generic version.
You may even find that what the doctor is prescribing is available much cheaper over the counter without a prescription at all.
Work with the Pharmaceutical Companies
Many firms run Patient Assistance Programs. They recognize that not everyone is in a position to pay the full cost for expensive medications, and therefore fund programs to make them available at lower costs.
However the details of these schemes are complicated—understandably, as the pharmaceutical companies do not want their humanitarian help to be exploited. It’s a good idea to get some help with navigating the maze. For instance, at NationwidePrescriptionConnection.com you can sign up for a service that will help to find the best program for you.
Work with Your Pharmacist
Buying prescription drugs can be like buying anything else—it pays to shop around. The cost of medications varies enormously between different pharmacies, and you can save hundreds of dollars by choosing the right outlet. Don’t assume that the big drugstores will automatically offer the lowest prices because of the savings they make through bulk purchasing. Often it turns out that out-of-town independent stores beat them squarely on price.
Don’t be afraid to ask for discounts. It seems strange to treat your life-enhancing medicines like a used car, but the price is usually open to negotiation. Sometimes just asking ‘Is that your best price?’ can be enough to get a substantial discount.
Once you have found a pharmacy that you are happy with, it is probably a good idea to stick with them and build up a relationship. Over the years you are likely to see a lot of them, especially if you have a long term condition, and they can offer helpful advice as they get to know you better.
Keep Taking the Tablets
The point about medical advance is to enable more people to live longer and fuller lives, but it does not come cheap. Like it or not, you are probably going to have to work the costs of prescriptions into your household budget, and that will mean sacrifices elsewhere—but if you can do so in the knowledge that you are getting the best deal you can, that can help to make it feel worthwhile.
Archie Foster has taken to writing about the price of prescriptions having discovered some ways to save money; he hopes his articles will help you.