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Reducing Medication Costs

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Can you save money by purchasing prescription medicines from Canada? Is it safe?

The answer to the first question is "Yes." Many brand-name prescription medicines, either over the Internet, by mail order, or in person, cost less from Canadian pharmacies than from their U.S. counterparts. Whether it is legal to buy them remains controversial.

The FDA warns that the safety of drugs bought from other countries cannot be ensured. But many doctors say that Canada also demands safety and efficacy for medicines. These doctors say they would rather have their patients buy medicines from Canada than skip doses because they can't afford their medicines. U.S. citizens have been buying medicines in Canada for years, although federal law prohibits the practice.

Talk to your doctor if you decide to import your medicines. And be sure to buy only from licensed Canadian pharmacies and wholesalers.

How can your doctor help?

To get your doctor to help, tell him or her that your prescription medicine bill is a financial burden. Ask for drugs that are less expensive but that work just as well. Often, a condition can be treated with one of several different medicines, and your doctor may be able to prescribe one that costs less.

You might ask your doctor if he or she has medicine samples, vouchers, or other resources for you, especially when you are trying out a new medicine to see whether it will work.

What about the Medicare drug program?

The Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit began in January 2006. For the most current information about what the Medicare Part D Act means for you, go to www.medicare.gov or call 1-800-MEDICARE. Your doctor, pharmacist, or social worker may also be able to help you know about your Medicare benefits.

What other resources are available?

See whether the pharmaceutical company that makes your medicine has a patient assistance program. Some companies offer free or discounted drugs for people who cannot afford them. These companies often require that your doctor contact them first about your case. Your doctor will need to be involved, and the application process can be complex. You may need to provide documentation to verify your income. The Partnership for Prescription Assistance provides doctors and other health care providers with the information they need to access these programs. You can find out more at www.pparx.org.

Some states have programs for seniors and people with disabilities or low incomes.

If you have a rare disease, you may qualify for a National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) medication assistance program. NORD's assistance programs help people with rare diseases whose income is too high to qualify for Medicaid but too low to pay for their prescribed medicines. For more information, visit www.rarediseases.org/patients-and-families/patient-assistance.

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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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