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Cutting Health Care Costs: Drugs

11 Tips on Trimming Prescription Drug Costs Without Compromising Your Health

4. Do consider switching from a combination pill to separate pills.

"Physicians are very open to the issues if someone is having financial problems," says Ballantyne.

Goldstein agrees. "A lot of my patients are being real frank about things they can afford and cannot afford," he says. For instance, he says some patients have told him, 'I can only take three or four medications; which ones should I take?'

"That's when we really have to turn to nonpharmaceutical ways of managing the issues," Goldstein says.

Zive suggests asking your pharmacist, privately, about costs. "You say, 'Look, I'm having a problem. Can you help me out a little bit with this?' and sometimes they can; sometimes they can't. ... it doesn't hurt to ask."

For instance, Zive says at his own pharmacy, "if somebody has an issue with a co-pay and they get paid at the end of the week, I say no problem, I'd rather you take this medication and you pay me in a few days, or I'll give you a couple pills now and you can come back."

6. Do look for the best price on your prescription drugs.

The cost of your prescription drugs may vary from store to store, so it may pay off to research prices.

"Not all pharmacies are created equal," Goldstein says. "It really can make a difference; it may be cheaper to shop around."

7. Do look into drug companies' assistance programs.

Drug companies have assistance programs to help cover medication costs for people who meet certain financial criteria.

"They're not always easy to navigate, and sometimes you need to fill out paperwork or go see your doctor and usually, for legal reasons, they won't deliver the medications to the pharmacy, but they're a good way to start," Zive says.

8. Do consider your Medicare Part D plan.

If you're 65 or older, or have Medicare because of a disability, you can switch Medicare Part D plans each year from Nov. 15 through Dec. 31, so you may want to asses whether your current plan is still the best deal for you.

"You have to be very, very careful when you make these changes," Zive says. "If you're not sure, ask your pharmacist or ask somebody."

9. Don't store pills incorrectly.

Heat, moisture, and darkness can "reduce the potency of the medication," says Zive, who warns against storing pills in bathroom medicine chests because of the heat and moisture in bathrooms.

"What would happen if you spent, say, either $100 on medications or $50 on a co-pay and you open up the vial and the medicines are all clumped together from moisture?" Zive asks.

10. Don't share pills or save pills.

Sharing pills is a no-no, even if it's with a relative.

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