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6 ways to save money on prescription drugs

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the average American pays $ 1200 a year for drugs - more than any other country in the world. A survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that 29% of US adults do not take their drugs as prescribed, skip or split doses, and independently replace drugs - only to pay less. You can't save on health, but you can still use drugs: here's how to do it effectively and safely.

Фото: Depositphotos

Ask questions

Find out why your medicines are so expensive, offers Time... “It's important to find the root cause that leads to a better solution,” says Erin Bradshaw, chief of missions for the nonprofit Patient Defense Foundation.

Bradshaw explains that even if the doctor doesn't tell you why this drug costs so much, pharmacists are often aware of it. They can show you how to save money in the short term, such as using manufacturer discounts, coupons, and similar opportunities.

Study your insurance plan

If you are insured, take the time and find out the details of your plan: monthly premium, deductible and important details (plan form, list of generics covered by insurance and well-known drugs). You can find out more using the tool for estimating the cost of drugs on the website of the insurance company. Commercial insurance companies may limit the choice of pharmacies or assign mail order service.

Oftentimes, patients simply don't understand how their plans work. “They may think they are being denied. The prescription may be covered by insurance, but the deductible will have to be paid out of pocket, ”says Bradshaw.

In other plans, there may be additional charge collectors: instead of counting the amount pledged by the manufacturer to the franchise and reducing the patient's expenses before the insurance starts, the drive requires the payment of the full deductible from the patient. The system redistributes the discount so as to reduce the burden on the insurance company.

“So you might find a solution that works for you, but after three months you find that you still owe a $ 5000 deductible,” Bradshaw says. "Some people are caught off guard."

If you have Medicare Part D, fill out prescriptions at one of the insurance pharmacies that should be listed on the company's website, and your co-pay will be lower.

Go to generics

Generics, or generics, are cheaper alternatives to brand name drugs, one of the general tips for reducing the cost of treatment.

“Generics are cheaper because companies didn't have to spend money on research and development,” explains Florida pharmacist Teresa Tolle. "Without these additional costs, generics copy the formula and spend less on production than companies that bring originals to market."

Although FDA-approved generics and brand analogs are usually considered identical, they may have small differences that are important for some consumers.

"The FDA has strict requirements for generics that must be met before being released for sale," says Tolle. For the FDA to approve a generic, the original and the copy must be bioequivalent, which means that the active ingredient must be the same and enter the bloodstream at approximately the same rate and amount. Where these numbers vary, there are inactive ingredients: fillers, casings, and flavors. Although the FDA requires proof that these ingredients are safe, they can still cause side effects, such as allergic reactions.

If you have insurance, check the form to determine comparative coverage for a generic or brand name drug and possible limitations for both. And, of course, consult your doctor before making any decisions.

Фото: Depositphotos

Pay attention to charity programs.

Currently, 8 national charity programs are operating in the US that offer assistance to patients who meet certain criteria. For example, to qualify for the Counseling for Patients Foundation Assistance Program, you need to have insurance, reside and receive treatment in one of the 50 states or in the District of Columbia, and have income at or below 300% or 400% of federal poverty level, taking into account the cost of living index and household size. Requirements vary from program to program.

Be smart

Prescription drug prices can change from store to store, and if you don't do your research, you might not find the best deal. Even if you have insurance coverage, it is worth exercising caution: you may find that the co-pay is actually higher than the full discounted price through the membership program (some are free, others have an annual fee) or with a coupon. While these personal expenses may not count towards your deductible, it can be a short-term solution to reduce the price tag. Both Bradshaw and Tolle recommend the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (, an online patient resource that can help you find programs based on your drug needs, age, place of residence, income, household size, current health insurance, and prescription service coverage.

Other purchasing strategies include:

  • Coupons: Find a site like GoodRx that compares prices for generics and brands in nearby pharmacies and offers coupons. But be careful: qualification requirements are imposed on some coupons. You cannot qualify for a brand-name discount if you are eligible to receive insurance coverage under a program funded by the state or the federal government. Since some coupons and discount cards are issued by marketing, rather than pharmaceutical companies, check to see if the company protects the privacy of patients, and only then provide personal information.
  • Discount cards: There are many discount cards for prescription drugs that promise ease of use and discounted prices. Nevertheless, on them there will always be the very small font that can introduce a lot of restrictions in a tempting offer. Read these details carefully.
  • Mail order service: For medicines you take regularly, this may be more cost effective than filling out a prescription at your local pharmacy (especially if you can get a 60 or 90 day supply). If you tend to delay or are in urgent need of medication, mail is not the best choice as processing and delivery can take up to two weeks. Mail order services are different from online pharmacies: they both deliver your medication, but online pharmacies may not accept your insurance.
  • Savings programs from manufacturers: Some pharmaceutical manufacturers have their own ways to help consumers. For example, the Pfizer patient care program offers people with an income above 400% of the federal poverty level free medications through the company's doctor’s office. The Pfizer savings program also allows qualified uninsured patients to receive discounts on brand-name drugs. If you do not have insurance financed by the state or federal authorities, but you are still insured, you can apply for individual cards to lower the prices of certain brand drugs. The website provides a complete list of available programs.
  • Free trial programs: Newbies may be eligible for a free trial of some brand-name medicines. Information about trial programs, including qualifications and duration, can usually be found on the brand's website.

Order less pills at a higher dose.

Depending on your medication, you can save money by ordering fewer pills at a higher dose, and then dividing each in half. Many tablets have a line that makes it easy to break it into two pieces. You can buy a special tablet cutter at the pharmacy or the Internet. However, first ask your doctor and read the instructions for the drug, and only then share. The fact is that not all drugs remain effective in the separation (for example, it does not work with drugs that release the active substance for a certain time). There are tablets of this structure that can irritate the stomach, being in a broken form. Unusually shaped small tablets or tablets may be hard to break. Capsules generally can not be opened or cut.

If you are in a pharmacy and received a very heavy bill, explain your financial situation. Your doctor and pharmacist will help you find the right alternative. Tolle explains that if you need a branded drug with no cheap alternatives, the person who wrote the prescription might have free samples. This will give you the opportunity to at least check its effectiveness before spending large sums, and provide a temporary odds so that you can explore the possibility of participating in programs.

The right drug can change and even save your life. But it will not help if you can not afford to buy and take it as prescribed by the doctor. Knowing the options available will allow you to get the right course of treatment at the right time.

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