6 ways to save on prescription drug costs

February 23, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn. (2/23/16)--One in four Americans are having difficulty paying for medications. Last year, total U.S. spending on prescription drugs by individuals, insurers, and governments jumped 13%--the largest increase since 2001. Certain demographics are feeling the crunch more than others (NextAvenue Feb. 1).

Many older Americans are protected from the full impact of the rising prices because Medicare Part D greatly expanded its coverage.

But anyone on specialty drugs is being hit by a recent trend of price spikes for these expensive medicines. Since seniors usually take multiple medications--widening the possibilities for specialty drugs--drug cost stability is starting to erode even for seniors.

Low-cost generics are seeing sudden price hikes--and this affects everyone. For example, the antibiotic doxycycline recently soared to $1,849 from $20 for 500 capsules. Pravastatin, a cholesterol drug, recently had a seven-fold price increase.

Here are some things you can do to take control of your own price increases:

  • Seniors enrolled in Medicare Part D: Compare specific prescriptions during every re-enrollment. Examine the plans’ monthly premiums and check out what changes are being made. The prices aren’t the only part—pay close attention to how you’ll be charged for specific prescriptions.
  • Call the manufacturer: If you have a condition that is remedied by an expensive drug that isn’t specified for that specific condition or disease, or you’re in the hole with expensive drug costs, call the customer service department at the pharmaceutical company that makes the drug and ask what kind of help it can provide. Some companies will appeal to your insurer on your behalf to cover the drug or offer you a discount.
  • Ask for generic: If your doctor prescribes a brand name, ask if a generic will work in your situation. Usually the active ingredient is the same.
  • Ask your doctor if larger doses are available: If the pill comes in tablet form and larger doses are available, check with the pharmacist to see if that particular pill can be cut in half or in quarters. Inexpensive pill cutters are available at pharmacies.
  • Look for coupons online: Coupons that discount drugs 20% to 70% are available to everyone, online. Google the drug and add the word “coupon.” You’ll find companies that provide free discount cards that are good for every FDA-approved drug. There are no enrollment fees or denials because the card is a coupon, not insurance.
  • Consider a mail-order pharmacy service. You can save a lot of money through online pharmacies but before you use one, check it out through either the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy or the Canadian International Pharmacy Association. Canadian and American online pharmacies are the most reputable.

For more information, read “Ironclad Couponing: Right Coupon, Right Store, Right Time” in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Other Resources

Home & Family Finance Resource Center

MoneyMix: Launch Your Life

Plan It: Retire Ready Toolkit