Medications can be lifesavers, but they can also lead to nightmare situations. If you take more than a couple prescriptions and over-the-counter (OTC) medications each day, making sure you have what you need when you need it is only half the battle. For many Baby Boomers and seniors, paying for all this pill popping is expensive and sometimes can lead to a choice between eating and staying on your meds.
No question it's ugly out there these days for those juggling (legal) drugs. Prescription prices are going nowhere but up and there's little relief in the OTC area, so a few cost-saving tips seem appropriate at this time.
1. Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA)
The PPA is a non-profit organization that helps qualifying patients without coverage get the medicines they need for free or nearly free. In brief, they offer a single-point access to nearly 500 public and private programs, including about 200 provided by pharmaceutical companies.
2. RX Access Card
The nation's leading drug companies combined efforts to provide low-income Americans who lack healthcare coverage with a price reduction on prescription products. The RX Access Card is free to those who have a household income of less than $45,000 for a single person to $90,000 for families of four. Most cardholders save 25 to 50 percent per brand-name or generic prescription.
3. Generic Medications
This one is pretty obvious, but the trick is to check with your doctor before allowing a pharmacy to substitute a generic, simply because your insurance calls for it. Not all generics work the same, so it may be worth paying a bit more for a drug that will actually work.
4. Name Brands
Just as with generics, not all name brands are interchangeable. If a medication isn't working the way it used to or as described by your physician, check to see if a pharmacy's substitution is the problem.
5. Follow Up
If you're not getting the results you desire, follow up with your doctor. There's no point in shelling out for a prescription that isn't doing the whole job when something else might work better. Talk to the nurse first, however, as they may simply talk to the doctor and change your script without your having to pay for an office visit.
You wouldn't normally think of coupons in relation to medications, but discounts for over-the-counter drugs frequently show up for Walgreens and other drug stores on such coupon sites as FreeShipping.org.
7. Shop Around
Get quotes from local and chain drugstores before you hand over your prescription. The difference in prices can be stunning, so don't just stick with one pharmacy because it's easier.
8. Price Matching
Best Buy isn't the only store that offers price matching. Locally owned pharmacies often offer this service in order to gain or keep your business. For example, Walmart and a few other chains charge just $4 for a specific list of medications, including OTC drugs. Ask your local pharmacist if they'll match that cut-rate price. You'll get more personalized service for the same price.
9. Pill Splitting
If your insurance plan charges the same co-pay for a higher-strength prescription, you can divide each pill to save money. Check with your doctor or pharmacist first, however, as some time-release tablets must be taken whole or they lose effect. This proviso also applies to high-potency drugs, where the line between toxicity and efficacy is razor thin.
10. Review Regularly
If you're taking more than a couple drugs regularly, schedule periodic reviews with your physician to evaluate whether each medication is still needed and whether you might be experiencing problems with drug interactions that reduce efficacy. This is particularly important if you have prescriptions from several doctors.
Kate Forgach is a Baby Boomer consumer specialist for Kinoli Inc. She has written about senior issues for 11 years as a Cooperative Extension specialist and for a wide variety of newspapers and magazines. She has been featured in USA Today, Detroit News, New Orleans Times-Picayune, New Yorker magazine, "ABC World News," NBC's "TODAY" show and many other media outlets.
I'm a former 7th grade Science teacher turned stay-at-home mom that lives in Houston, Texas. I am married to my college sweetheart and have a beautiful daughter named Riley, who definitely keeps me on my toes! I am also involved in starting a small business which would both manufacture and sell an invention that I've patented, called Toothpaste 2 Go. I love interacting with my readers and hope to learn as much about you as you learn about me!