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Reducing Medication Costs

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How can you save money on prescriptions? continued...

Buying prescriptions in bulk can also save you money. Ask your doctor to write a prescription for several months' supply of medicines that you take consistently. Keep in mind that your insurance company may limit the amount of medicine you can get at one time. Sometimes the cash price for a 3-month supply of medicine is less costly than if you were to pay an insurance copay each month for three months. Mail-order services can often save you money on large orders. But be sure to use only trusted, reliable pharmacy websites.

If you are trying a medicine for the first time, don't get more than a 30-day supply. That way, if you have concerns about side effects, you can talk to your doctor about trying another medicine. And you may save money by not getting more than you needed.

For more ideas about how to pay for medicines, how to remember to take them, and when to call your doctor, see Quick Tips: Taking Medicines Wisely.

How can your insurance plan help you save money?

Take time to find out about how your medical insurance or managed health care plan covers medicine costs. Some insurance companies cover only generic medicines if they are available. With some insurance plans, you may have to pay more for medicines that are not on the plan's list of preferred medicines (also known as a formulary). Some insurers cover medicines that are bought only at participating pharmacies. Your insurance company also may not pay for certain medicines such as weight-loss and hair-growth drugs. Ask the customer service representative whether your medicines are covered, whether you need to buy at certain pharmacies, and about your copayment. Many insurance companies also list this information on their websites.

If you have a choice between plans, check what your copayment for prescription drugs will be, the maximum amount the plan will pay in a year, and other details. Choose the plan that best suits your needs. When you buy medicines, find out which payment option will be the least expensive. Some things to consider include whether there is a generic version of a preferred medicine and whether an over-the-counter equivalent costs less than your copayment. Bring a copy of your health care plan's list of preferred prescription drugs to your next doctor appointment. And keep the list with your chart. That way, you and your doctor can see which medicines cost the least on your plan. Remember, having the right information can save you time and money.

To learn more about insurance, see the topic Understanding Health Insurance.

Are prescription medicines always needed?

There may be an over-the-counter alternative for your prescription medicine. For example, nonprescription naproxen (Aleve) is a fraction of the cost of the prescription equivalent Naprosyn. (Generic versions of over-the-counter medicines can save you even more money.) Often nonprescription equivalents of prescription medicines come in lower strengths, so get instructions from your doctor or pharmacist on how to take them.

In the case of antibiotics, research has found that they are not always needed. For example, up to two-thirds of people who have acute sinusitis improve on their own without antibiotic treatment.1 Your doctor might advise you to take a wait-and-see approach before you buy expensive antibiotics.

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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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