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7 Ways to Save Money on Your Meds

Use these savvy strategies to cut your prescription drug costs.

Medically reviewed in July 2022

Updated on October 20, 2022

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According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 in 10 American adults don’t take their medications as prescribed so they can save money. But not taking your drugs as prescribed or skipping them altogether may land you in the hospital with expenses that are much larger than your pharmacy bills. Fortunately, there are ways to buy them more affordably. Start with these money-saving strategies.

Rose Hayes, RN, BSN, earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from the University of Virginia. She has inpatient clinical experience in the acute care of the elderly, pediatric oncology and palliative care, and has served as a Frontline Leader at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

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Compare prices

Drug prices differ according to zip code and among pharmacies. Before filling your prescription, call different locations for estimates. Remember that discount stores like Walmart and Target often run specials and may have member discounts. Also, don’t overlook small, mom-and-pop pharmacies. Surprisingly, they can be cheaper than national chains and may be willing to negotiate prices.

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Talk to your pharmacist

Insurance contracts can prevent your pharmacist from volunteering discount information unless you ask. Before you pay, find out if you’re getting the best deal. Ask about the difference between supply counts, too—one 90-day supply may be cheaper than three separate 30-day supplies.

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Review meds with your doctor

Ask your doctor to review your medication list regularly to see if any may be stopped. This can help prevent errors and interactions in addition to cutting costs. It’s also an opportunity to make plans for getting you off meds once you make certain lifestyle changes. Finally, ask about cheaper brand or generic options and encourage your doctor to choose from your insurer’s “formulary,” or the list of medications that your plan covers.

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Try generics

Generic drugs are made with the same active ingredients as name brands and they undergo rigorous FDA testing before becoming available. If you haven’t tried them because you’re worried about “getting what you pay for,” know that generics aren’t cheaper because of quality. Name brands cost more because they’re the first version of the drug and the company had to pay for all of the expensive, early safety studies.

Check generic prices at chain stores. They tend to offer impressive deals when you pay out-of-pocket. If you’re a member, Sam’s Club even fills some prescriptions for free. 

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Work with your insurer

If the price of a drug you take changes, it may have been moved to a higher tier on your insurer’s formulary. That means it’s still covered by your plan, but you’ll have to pay more for it. Look for similar drugs on lower tiers with your doctor. If there are no other options, your doctor can petition the insurance company for a lower price on your behalf.

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Check out financial assistance

Some drug companies offer financial assistance programs. If you prove that you need a medication, but can’t pay for it, they may be willing to help. Also try the Medicine Assistance Tool from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. 

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Beware ordering meds online

Don’t buy medications from other countries; they are likely low quality or fake. When buying drugs online, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends only using a U.S.-based company to ensure that it’s a reliable source. There are also plenty of Internet scams, so look for the VIPPS logo, which shows that it’s a Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site.

Slideshow sources open slideshow sources

QuickStats: Percentage of Adults Aged ≥18 Years Who Did Not Take Their Medication as Prescribed or Asked for Lower-Cost Medication to Save Money Among Those Prescribed Medication in the Past 12 Months, by Number of Chronic Conditions — National Health Interview Survey, 2018. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2019;68:990.
Cohen RA, Boersma MPH, Vahratian A. Strategies Used by Adults Aged 18–64 to Reduce Their Prescription Drug Costs, 2017. NCHS Data Brief. March 2019. No. 333.
Medicare.gov. 5 ways to get help with prescription costs. Accessed October 20, 2022.
American Cancer Society. Help Paying for Prescription Drugs. Last revised May 13, 2019.
Mental Health America. How can I get help paying for my prescriptions? Accessed October 20, 2022.
The Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies. Counterfeit Medication. Accessed October 20, 2022.
U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Quick Tips for Buying Medicines Over the Internet. Current as of February 25, 2020.

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