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Michelle Fern Michelle Fern
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How to save money on prescriptions

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I have worked in the medical field for some time and the most frequent complaint I've heard over the years is the cost of medications. And depending on whether you pay an insurance co-pay for generic medications, fill your prescriptions at Walmart or Rite Aid, or even buy a one-month supply, you could be overpaying.

Physicians try their best to help patients end unnecessary medications, and medical staff often tries to educate patients about alternative methods to get their prescriptions when costs are beyond the patients' means. On the supply side, some pharmaceutical companies will help patients who are financially unable to keep up with prescription costs, especially for unique medications that treat unique conditions.

Here are some tips on saving money on your prescriptions:


Studies show that generic drugs can save a lot of cash when it comes to preventing and treating serious illnesses, and switching to a generic brand is the primary way to save money on your medications. Sometimes a generic is not available, doesn't work as well or even causes unwanted side effects. However, generics are just as good as the brand name most of the time, so talk with your doctor and see if your medication comes in generic form.

Don't club' it

As you may have seen over the past few years, some pharmacies such as Kmart, Walgreens and CVS offer a prescription savings club. These pharmacies have decided not to compete in the generic brand discount pricing and instead offer patients a discount if they join a club for a fee. But why pay an annual fee when you can go to a pharmacy that simply gives you the same medication for a cheaper price?

Co-pay vs. Actual Cost

Some insurance companies require flat co-pays of $10-$20 for its members for prescriptions. However, some pharmacies such as Walmart, Target and Sam's Club offer some generic brands for only $4. So even if you have insurance, shop around to see if paying out of pocket is cheaper than your insurance co-pay. If so, ditch it.

Online pharmacies

With the exception of getting your generics for $4, the second best way to save on medications is to comparison shop online. First make sure that you are dealing with a reputable U.S.-based online pharmacy such as Costco. At one point, our family did not have insurance and I did some extensive research and found that Costco's online pharmacy was the cheapest and didn't require membership or even having a Costco near where you live. A prescription that I was taking at the time cost $91 at Walmart (it was generic but not on their $4 list, of course) and at Costco it only cost me $11.95 for a 90-day supply.

Costco is not the only online pharmacy other reputable sites include, and If you are unsure if an online pharmacy is legit, there are several organizations that evaluate online drugstores for the quality of the services they provide, including the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) and Pharmacy Checker. Both organizations reject the majority of Internet pharmacies.

Buy in bulk

Most medications are cheaper if you buy a 90-day supply instead of a 30-day if your insurance allows it. Walmart for example charges $4 for 30 days and $10 for 90 days, a 17 percent savings. Still, talk with your doctor and explain the financial savings so he or she doesn't think you're just trying to get more pills or trying to get out of seeing them as often.

Try different strengths

When price shopping, also check the price on different strengths since certain sizes are cheaper than others. If you take a 50mg tablet and it's cheaper to buy the 100mg and split it in half, talk with your doctor about rewriting the medication for economical reasons.

Don't wait too long

If you buy your medications online, most offer free standard shipping. However, this means anywhere from six to 14 days of shipping time. If you wait until you're down to your last few pills, it may cost you more to have it shipped or get a small amount at your local pharmacy, which defeats the purpose of buying online to save money.

Tax time means savings time

Remember to keep all your receipts. If you medications and other medical bills are more than 7.5 percent of your income, you can deduct them on your taxes if you itemize your deductions.


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