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Buy Generics

They cost less, they’re safe, and they work just as well as brand-name drugs. That’s because generics have the same active ingredients. Ask your doctor if it’s OK to switch. Most times, the pharmacist will automatically give you the generic version if it’s available.

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Pay for Generics Without Insurance

Many pharmacies have lower-priced generics. You don’t always need health insurance to get them. Some drugs cost around $4 for a 30-day supply. That might be less than your copay, or the amount you pay out-of-pocket when you use health insurance.

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Buy Preferred Drugs

Your health insurer has a formulary. That’s a list of preferred, or covered, medications. Some drugs cost more than others. If your doctor prescribes a higher-priced drug, ask your health insurer if there’s a cheaper one that works the same way. Then ask the doctor if you can switch. If you need a drug that isn’t covered, your doctor can ask your insurer if they’ll make an exception.

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Use a Preferred Pharmacy

Your health insurer might have deals with certain pharmacies. Ask if there’s a special, “in-network” drugstore you should use. You’ll likely pay less out of pocket when you get your medicine from one of these places.

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Shop Around

Drug prices are different from store to store. You can quickly compare costs through smartphone apps and certain websites. You can also call around. Some drugstores will match prices if a medicine costs less somewhere else.

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Look for Discount Cards

Some websites let you compare costs. They’ll give you a free prescription savings card, too. These work like coupons. You can’t use them with your health insurance, but sometimes drugs are cheaper when you use the discount card by itself. You usually don’t have to fill out an application or anything. Just download your card and show it to the pharmacist every time you get your medicine.

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Look Online for Coupons

Some websites show you which drug makers offer instant coupons and other discounts. You can also check the same sites that let you compare costs and offer prescription savings cards.

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Buy in Bulk or by Mail

Ask the doctor or pharmacist if you can get a 3-month supply of your meds. You can usually get it delivered right to your door if your insurer has a mail-order program.

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Apply for Assistance

If you can’t afford your drugs, there are public and private programs that might help. They’re called Patient (or Prescription) Assistance Programs (PAPs). They’re usually run by drug companies, state governments, and nonprofits. You’ll need to fill out an application to see if you qualify.

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Get a Copay Card

If you have to take a brand-name drug that doesn’t have a generic option, ask your doctor if you can get a copay card. They work like manufacturer coupons and help lower your out-of-pocket costs. They only work if you have private insurance. Ask your health insurance provider if it counts toward your deductible. That’s the amount you pay out-of-pocket for covered services before your insurance kicks in.

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Ask Your Doctor About Pill Splitting

Drugs usually cost the same amount no matter how strong they are. You’ll fill your prescription less often -- and save money -- if you get a double dose you can cut in half. Ask your doctor if that’s OK. Drugs that are FDA-approved for splitting have a score, or line, down the middle. Some drugs aren’t safe to cut or crush. That includes capsules, drugs with a hard shell, or sustained and time-release medication. Those usually have SR or ER in the name.

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Look Into Non-Prescription Drugs

Talk to your doctor about over-the-counter (OTC) medicine if you have health conditions like acid reflux, allergies, or ongoing pain. There might be a cheaper OTC option that works just as well as your prescription. You might not be able to switch, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

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Review Your Prescriptions

Schedule an appointment with your doctor to talk about the drugs you’re taking. Ask if you can cut back on or stop certain medications altogether. They’ll tell you what you still need. If there’s a drug you can stop taking, they’ll show you how to do it safely.

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What Not to Do

Don’t stop taking your medicine or skip doses to save money. You could get sick and have to take off work or end up in the hospital. That’s bad for your health and your wallet. Talk to your doctor or a nurse if you can’t afford your medicine. Ask them if they know about any local or national  groups who can help.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 09/01/2020 Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on September 01, 2020


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FDA: “Generic Drugs: Questions & Answers,” “Best Practices for Tablet Splitting.”

UpToDate: “Patient education: Coping with high drug prices (Beyond the Basics).”

NeedyMeds: “$4 Generic Discount Drug Programs,” “Can’t Afford Your Medicines? Help is Here!” “Co-pay Cards FAQs,” “Coupons, Rebates & More.” “How Medicare Drug Plans Use Pharmacies, Formularies, & Common Coverage Rules,” “6 ways to get help with prescription costs.” “Using your health insurance coverage: Getting prescription medications.”

American Diabetes Association: “Help With Insulin Is a Phone Call Away.”

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “Financial Help for Diabetes Care.”

Federal Trade Commission (Consumer Information): “Prescription Assistance Programs: Health Information for Older People.”

Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy: “Profession Practice Advisory on Tablet Splitting.”

American Family Physician: “Deprescribing Is and Essential Part of Good Prescribing.”

UnityPoint Health: “6 Ways to Reduce Prescription Drug Costs.”

American Heart Association: “High out-of-pocket costs can make lifesaving medications out of reach for millions of Americans with cardiovascular disease.”

Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on September 01, 2020

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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