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Reducing Medication Costs

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Topic Overview

Note:

Some health plans have their own pharmacies for their members. If you belong to one of those health plans, some of the advice in this topic may not apply to you.

How can you lower your medicine costs?

Trying to make some changes in your lifestyle might help reduce your need for medicines. Many chronic illnesses, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and low back pain, require fewer medicines if you can increase your activity level, lose weight, and improve your diet. Also, counseling, support groups, and other therapies may help with illnesses such as depression.

How can you save money on prescriptions?

Generic medicines are less expensive copies of brand-name medicines. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you can take a generic equivalent for the brand-name medicine that you take now. Generic equivalents are made according to the same strict U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards as brand-name drugs. So generics have the same quality, strength, purity, and stability as their more expensive brand names.

Unfortunately, generic equivalents are not available for every brand-name medicine. If there is not an equivalent, ask your doctor if there is a similar medicine in the same class that may be less expensive or that has a generic equivalent.

Shop around for the best deal on medicines. The retail cost can vary widely from pharmacy to pharmacy. Some pharmacies match the price that other pharmacies charge. Finding a good deal is important, but be sure that your pharmacist (or pharmacists) knows your medical history, including all the medicines you take—both prescription and over-the-counter (nonprescription) drugs as well as dietary supplements and herbs—even if you didn't get them at that particular pharmacy. That way he or she can provide valuable advice about any potential for drug interactions, side effects, or other problems.

Also, compare costs of buying medicines online. Some large drugstore chains have websites that offer savings. See a complete list of websites on the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) site at www.nabp.net. Look for websites that display the NABP VIPPS (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites) seal, which means they meet state and federal requirements.

If you decide to buy your medicine on the Internet, be a smart shopper and learn how to buy drugs safely online.

Pill splitting is another strategy that can help you save money without losing drug effectiveness or safety. Some tablets are available at double the dose and at the same or almost the same cost as lower doses. By splitting the larger dose, you can essentially get two doses for the price of one. But many medicines should not be split, including timed-release pills and capsules.

Ask your doctor or pharmacist if any of your prescription medicines are sold at higher dosages and if it's possible to split them. Talk to your pharmacist about how to split pills with an inexpensive, easy-to-use pill splitter camera.gif.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 13, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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