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50+: Live Better, Longer

Dos and Don'ts for Saving Money on Rx Drugs

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5 Good Ways to Save Money on Medicine continued...

4. Do Shop Around

“Prices at pharmacies are fluid,” says Sagall, who recommends negotiating with your pharmacist. If one pharmacy has the best prices in town on all but one of the medications you’re taking, let the pharmacist know and see if she can give you a discount on that one drug. “Many pharmacies want relationships. They want to keep you as a patient, and this is one way they do it,” says Sagall.

5. Do Look Into Patient Assistance Programs

Many pharmaceutical companies have programs that provide their drugs at deep discounts or even free for people in need. If you have a prescription for a high-cost drug, check out the company’s web site to see if they offer assistance. You can also look up patient assistance programs on the NeedyMeds web site (needymeds.org), which provides information on almost 6,000 programs.

5 Bad Ways to Try to Cut Drug Costs

1. Don’t Use a Friend’s Medicine Cabinet

“Taking other people’s medications is a really bad way to save money,” says Sagall. The drugs you find in your friend’s stash may be expired, may be the wrong dose, and may react with something else you’re taking. Plus, taking someone else’s prescriptions is illegal. “There are usually specific reasons why a doctor prescribes pill A and not pill B to their patient,” says Sagall. 

2. Don’t Insist on Brand Name Drugs

In the old days, drug companies sent information to physicians, who then decided what drugs to prescribe to their patients. Now television and magazine ads use images of active grandparents or amorous couples to promote prescription drugs directly to patients. No matter how attractive the models, the advertised drug may not be the best match for your particular condition. And there's probably a less expensive alternative to the drug advertised on TV.

3. Don’t Assume Herbal Supplements Are Safe or Adequate

Because they’re natural, it’s easy to equate herbal supplements with a green, leafy salad. In fact, herbal supplements are not regulated like medications, and some could pose a real danger. “Some of the herbals have the same drug interactions and possibility of adverse reactions as prescription medicines,” says Sawaya. “Those things need to be monitored by a doctor.”

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