Saving money on prescription drugs is important to everyone, but especially self-pay patients who don’t have coverage for their medicines or who have high deductibles. I’ve mentioned a couple of options in the past, including the $4 generic drugs programs offered by most major ‘big box’ pharmacies and chain drug stores, and drug discount cards that can allow the uninsured to get prescription drug prices similar to what insurers pay.
There are other options as well, including coupons for prescription drugs and patient assistance programs that are typically offered by drug manufacturers themselves and have been developed to help people who can’t afford to pay full price for their medications, typically the uninsured but others as well.
One shortcoming of the prescription assistance programs is that they can be a little challenging to find and apply for – each manufacturer has their own program, with different eligibility standards and procedures for getting low-cost or even free medicines.
One resource I’ve recently found and am very impressed with that brings together information on patient assistance programs for nearly every drug manufacturer in the country, along with a wealth of other options for saving money. Called NeedyMeds, it is essentially a one-stop source for people wanting to save money on prescription drugs. Here’s how they describe themselves:
NeedyMeds is a 501(c)(3) non-profit information resource devoted to helping people in need find assistance programs to help them afford their medications and costs related to health care…
NeedyMeds’ mission is to be the best source of accurate, comprehensive and up-to-date information on programs that help people facing problems paying for medications and health care; to assist those in need in applying to programs; and to provide health-related education using innovative methods…
According to information on their site, there are currently patient assistance programs for more than 4,000 brand and generic drugs. Their web site offers an easily searchable database of these drugs – all a patient has to do is click on the drug name, and it takes them to a page that provides full information on a variety of options for low-cost and free prescription drugs.
For example, I clicked on Lipitor, a brand-name drug made by Pfizer that is often prescribed to treat high cholesterol. NeedyMeds provided information on four options:
- RxOutreach.org, a charitable organization that is also a fully licensed online pharmacy catering to the uninsured and those without any prescription drug coverage whose income is under 300% of federal poverty
- Lipitor for You, a program offered by Pfizer that is focused on privately insured patients and helps to drastically reduce co-pays with their “LIPITOR $4 Co-Pay Card”
- Together Rx Access, an industry-supported program that offers discounts on brand-name medicines for the uninsured with incomes below about 400% of the federal poverty level
- Pfizer Phriends, a Pfizer program for the uninsured that offers discounts on their drugs
For each of these options, NeedyMeds summarizes the program and provides links to apply for them. It also notes whether there are coupons available for the drug (in this case it takes you to the Lipitor for You program site), and also provides a link to their diagnosis based assistance page so you can see if there are organizations that offer assistance to people with specific conditions and illnesses (there aren’t in this case).
The one thing missing in the search results was a note or a link letting people know that generic versions of Lipitor are available. But in this case, looking at NeedyMeds generic page showed that a generic, atorvastatin calcium, was available from Xubex, an online pharmacy that looks to be primarily for patients using assistance programs. Their web site describes themselves this way:
…Our services include the Patient Assistance Program for generics medications, Discount Drug Program, Free Medication and Diabetes Care Kits and supplies, Discount Diabetes Supplies and Co-pay Assistance Program.
We are the premier source for the assistance program for generic medications and for the past 16 years, we have helped tens of thousands of clients across the country get the medications they need. Our Discount Drug program has cut the cost for all medications, brand or generic, up to 70% and the Free medication program is provided to those patients who cannot afford their prescriptions and require assistance to get started on their therapy. The Co-pay assistance program is available to anyone with traditional prescription coverage which utilizing the medications on our Co-pay Assistance program can minimize or eliminate the out-of-pocket expenses for the medications they need. Our program is available to everyone nationwide….
The prices offered by Xubex ranged from $20 – $45 for a 90-day supply all the way up to a 360-day supply costing $80 or $120 (it isn’t clear, but I’d guess the higher price is for higher dosages). Those prices compare very favorably to what I found at local pharmacies for atorvastatin, $13.65 for a 30 day supply being the lowest price I found for a relatively low-dosage pill. Buying a 1-year supply from Xubex would save about 50% over buying from my local pharmacy.
NeedyMeds also has a page listing all the coupons they are aware of (and there are a lot of them – over 100 just under medicines that start with the letter ‘A’), a page for finding free- and low-cost clinics across the country, and they also offer their own, free drug discount card. Other resources include a listing of camps and retreats for patients and families with specific diagnosis, links to a number of government assistance programs, and a medical bill mediation service.
All in all, NeedyMeds appears to be a one-stop source for saving money on prescription drugs, and should be high on the list of places for self-pay patients to go when they need to save money on medicines.