5 Ways to Pay Less for Medications

5 Ways to Pay Less for Medications

If you’re like most people these days, cutting costs on everything is at top of mind. But, health experts warn, there’s something you should never do in order to save money—attempt to cut RX costs by skipping a dose or taking less medication per dose than your doctor has prescribed for you.

Unfortunately, not everyone follows that advice. A 2015 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that nearly one in 10 Americans have admitted to not taking their medicine as prescribed in order to save money. Those ages, 18 to 64, were twice as likely to do so when compared to adults 65 and older.

“If you’re not taking your prescription, it can’t work for you. And if you’re taking it at less than the prescribed dose, it could be working for you less,” says Keith Roach, MD, chief medical officer of Sharecare and associate professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.

“Take HIV or infections in general. If you are taking an antibiotic or antiviral medicine—when it is at the right dose in your body, it keeps the bugs from growing. But once that level gets too low, then they have a chance of learning how to defeat the medicine you’re taking. So if you don’t take it for a significant period of time, the medication can become useless for you because the organism has learned how to get around it.”

In addition, skipping doses or only taking a partial dose can have other negative consequences, including increased visits to the emergency room and hospitalizations.

The next time you’re thinking about how to reduce your drug costs, use one or more of these strategies—before your health ends up paying the price.

  1. Be informed. Your doctor may be aware of your medication coverage. If not, look at your health insurance plan website or ask your pharmacist about preferred tier medications, then share that information with your doctor. “Your doctor wants to help you and work with you and figure out a way of using your benefits to the maximum,” Dr. Roach says.
  2. Use generics. Ask your doctor to write a prescription for a generic substitute, if possible. There are a few instances where a brand-name medication is necessary. If you have a concern about why a brand name is necessary, talk to your prescribing physician.
  3. Shop around. Drug prices vary by pharmacy, so do your homework and call around before getting your prescription filled, or visit a site like to compare prices. And don’t just think of pharmacies as sources. Many big box stores fill prescriptions at a lower cost.
  4. Seek help from the drug company. Contact the drug manufacturer to see if you qualify for an assistance plan for either low-cost or zero-cost medication.
  5. Ask, “Do I still need this?” Sometimes a person’s medication profile needs a good cleaning. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask your doctor if you still need to take a certain medication.

In addition to these strategies, making your health a priority can also have a positive impact your wallet.

“Treating any underlying condition through lifestyle can sometimes eliminate the need for medications and has so many other benefits,” says Roach. “Not only can it you save money, you can save side effects.” He adds that the biggest message for patients is not to be embarrassed when talking with their doctor.

“Your physician can’t help you if they don’t understand what your situation is—if your situation is that you’ve got very poor coverage and you just are very sensitive towards price. They can help find a regimen for you that is something you’re going to be able to afford. It’s much better to have a regimen you can afford and take every day than it is to be on a more expensive medication that you can’t afford to take or that you take only intermittently.”

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