Medication can be expensive. The good news is you can save money by shopping around. Sometimes you might spend less if you pay the retail price. That’s what you pay out-of-pocket when you don’t use health insurance. Use these tips to lower your costs. 

Compare Prices

Websites and smartphone apps make it easy. You can search for deals on prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Just type in your medicine and location. You’ll get a list of retail drugstores near you. The apps won’t show you how much you’ll pay if you use your health insurance, but you can usually find:

Retail costs. You’ll usually get the price for generic and brand-name options.

Coupons. Check to make sure they’re good at your pharmacy.  

Discount cards. You can use these like coupons. They don’t give you savings on top of your health insurance, but sometimes it’s cheaper to use the card by itself.

Membership deals. Some pharmacies offer savings clubs. Ask if there’s a yearly membership fee before you sign up.


Shop Online

Buying medications from a digital drugstore might lower costs. Just be sure it’s a real one. Illegal pharmacies might send you harmful medicine or drugs that don’t work the right way.

Check to see if the site is VIPPS certified. That means it has a “Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites” seal from the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP). You can also search for an accredited online pharmacy on the NABP website.

Here are other things to look for:

  • You have to give a real prescription from your doctor or another licensed prescriber.
  • The site is licensed by your state board of pharmacy or another state agency.
  • It gives a real U.S. street address and phone number.
  • There is a U.S. state-licensed pharmacist you can call.

Signs an online pharmacy might be fake:

  • You don’t have to give a prescription.
  • There isn’t a licensed pharmacist involved.
  • The prices are way lower than anywhere else.
  • You find out about it through an email about cheap drugs.
  • It says it’ll ship worldwide.

Ask About Generics

You can get low-cost generics without health insurance. Some big-box or grocery-store pharmacies offer a generic discount drug program. You might pay as little as $4 for a 30-day supply or $10 for a 90-day supply. These deals are usually for generic drugs doctors prescribe often.

If you have health insurance, ask your pharmacist about the retail cost of your generic. It might be less than your copay. But keep in mind that anything you pay without insurance won’t go toward your deductible. That’s the most your insurer can make you pay out-of-pocket.

Call Your Health Insurer

It might be cheaper to fill your prescription at certain retail pharmacies. You can call your health insurer or prescription benefits manager to find out. Ask if your plan has an “in-network” or “preferred” pharmacy.

Buy in Bulk

Ask your plan or pharmacy if you can get your drugs sent through the mail. This tends to lower your costs on medicines you take for 3 or more months. Not only is it usually cheaper to buy a larger supply, you won’t have to leave your house to fill your prescription.

What Not to Do

Don’t wait to refill your prescription or skip doses to save money. And don’t stop taking medicine without talking to your doctor. You could get sick. If you need medicine but can’t pay for it, tell your doctor.

Ask them about:

  • Private or public patient assistance programs (PAPs)
  • Medicare “Extra Help”
  • Manufacturer coupons or drug cards
  • Local and national charity programs


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