Searching for the best prices on medications can be a daunting task. It should be realized that even if you are fortunate enough to have health insurance, it may not always be the least expensive option. The steps below will allow you to gain a better handle on drug prices and hopefully save you some money.
Step 1 – Know your meds!
This one should be obvious, especially since doctors always want to know what you are currently taking. It is always a good idea to make a list of your medications, dosages and frequencies. This information may come in handy not only for yourself, but also for your family if any emergency arises. However, to help determine the best price for a particular medication, these are the specifics you should verify with your doctor:
- Name of medication
- Dosage amount
- Fill quantity
- Form of medication (tablets, capsule, liquid, etc.)
- There may be very large price differences for different medication forms.
Step 2 – Check your insurance (if applicable) to see if the medication is covered and what your cost will be.
Your insurance provider will often have preferred pharmacies which offer the least expensive cost under your plan. The insurance may cover all, part, or none of the medication cost. Your insurance may also dictate that the medication is only covered in generic form. If your medication is not paid in full by your insurance, read on to see if you can obtain your medication at a lower cost.
Note: While mail ordering your medication may be the least expensive and easiest insurance option (but not always), take care when filling a new or renewed prescription through mail order. Mistakes happen, and if the doctor’s prescription was written incorrectly or misunderstood, you could be on the hook to return the incorrect medication at your cost. Filling your prescription locally greatly minimizes this issue, since you can verify before buying.
Step 3 – Determine if your medication is offered in a generic form.
You first want to start determining whether your medicine is available in a generic form, greatly reducing the cost of the medicine. Determining this first will guide you to the least expensive option. After a drug manufacturers creates a new medicine, they are allowed a patent. The patent will state the period of time (usually several years) to exclusively sell it to the public, per U.S. law. When this exclusive period expires, other drug manufacturers are allowed to sell the drug in a generic form. The quickest way to determine if a generic is available is to ask your doctor or pharmacist. Alternatively, use the FDA’s “Orange Book” to determine if there are any outstanding patents, and when they expire.
Step 4 – Use third-party websites to find a medication discount online.
The Internet is a great source for obtaining discounts on medications, if you know where to look. There are a number of websites which allow you to list medication discount prices from different pharmacies in your area. These services are free to use. There is no cost to obtain these prices. These websites will allow you to print a discount card (or picture on a smart phone) to show the pharmacist for the specific medication discount. The discount is applied when you pay for your medication. Use the links below and supply your zip code and the information collected in step 1.
- The discounts provided from these websites do not apply in conjunction with your own insurance. You will either need to use your own insurance discount, or use these discounts. You cannot use both.
- When using these sites, make sure you are selecting the correct form of medication (tablets, capsule, liquid, etc.), dosage, and fill quantity to get the correct discount price. In addition, make sure these are all correct before displaying/printing the discount card. Even if the quantity is incorrect, you may not get your full discount, as the discount code may be different.
- Usually, a greater fill quantity prescription is less expensive than a set of smaller fill qualities (example: (1) 90-day supply compared to (3) 30-day supplies).
- Generally, Goodrx gives the best prices, but try them all to maximize your discount. Sometimes medication prices fluctuate daily and the price normally varies from one pharmacy to the next.
- Some big-box stores, such as Costco, will fill prescriptions whether you are a member or not. However, they may restrict the method of payment. Confirm this with your local big-box store before having a prescription filled there.
Step 5 – Checking the “cash price” for a medication.
Compare the different costs for the same medication from different pharmacies near you. Call your local pharmacies and ask what the cost of a medication will be without insurance. This is called the “cash price” of the medication. Generally, this will be the most expensive price. However, some pharmacies, such as Publix supermarkets (located in the southeastern U.S.), offer no cost or very low cost prescriptions for certain maintenance medications and antibiotics. Supermarket pharmacies are a good source for these discounts. They may even offer weekly/monthly enticements (such as free gift cards) to fill prescriptions at their supermarket’s pharmacy.
Step 6 – Check an online pharmacy.
Another option is using a totally online pharmacy. You can check prices online, order online and they ship to you. Similar to step 4, you cannot use these discounts in conjunction with your insurance discounts. Proper prescription documentation is required and as noted in step 1, take care when filling new or renewed prescriptions online.
Step 7 – Reach out to the Medication (Drug) Manufacturer.
If you determined in step 3 that there is no generic option for the medication, this step may help the most. Some drug manufactures give you a fairly good discount on the cash price of a medication, but you need to know where to look. Checking with the specific drug manufacturer for each drug to determine if they offer assistance. Your pharmacist can tell you the drug manufacturer’s name. You could also use step 3 and check the FDA’s “orange book” to find the manufacturer’s name. Once you have this information, perform a search on the Internet to find the company’s official website and locate any information on financial assistance for consumers. Once you contact the manufacturer, they can discuss how to qualify for the medication discount. Sometimes this means small fill quantities (such as a month supply at a time) and only offering their discount at certain local pharmacies.
Step 8 – Transfer prescription to the lower cost pharmacy.
What if you find a pharmacy’s medication cost which is less expensive than your insurance cost? Transfer it.
Most of the times, transferring a prescription is as easy as calling the lower cost pharmacy and asking to transfer the prescription. You can do this even if the original pharmacy already filled your prescription. The pharmacist will ask you for the prescription number (if you have it) and the contact information of the original pharmacy. Sometimes your doctor may need to submit another prescription to the lower cost pharmacy, if the medication is considered a controlled substance. Following these steps will hopefully have you gaining more control in order to lower the cost of your meds!