4 quick tips on prescription drug savings

I was on the David Madeira Show this morning, talking about alternatives to conventional health insurance. David is a member of Samaritan Ministries, one of the five major health sharing ministries that bring together people who want to share medical bills outside of conventional insurance, so of course we got to talking about sharing ministries (I’ll be posting David’s experience with Samaritan soon, it’s a great story that proves wrong those who say sharing ministries don’t work for high-cost medical needs).

Anyways, in the course of our conversation, David mentioned the post I wrote on Altrua merging with Blessed Assurance Bulletin, meaning that Altrua members would be eligible for the exemption from having to pay Obamacare’s tax on the uninsured. David referenced it as, and I’m paraphrasing here, “the most recent post on The Self-Pay Patient site, dated October 15…”

Yeah. It’s been a while. I’m happy to be so busy with work that actually pays, but still.

So, I’m going to have to try to be better about posting here, but in order to do that it probably means a lot less of me writing stuff, and a lot more of me cutting-and-pasting from other interesting things I find that I think will be helpful for self-pay patients while not violating any copyright laws.

Like the article below, on prescription drug savings. I’ve covered some of these things here before of course, but one that I haven’t was the bit about re-evaluating your medicines periodically. I know from personal experience (not mine, but family members – I’ve probably had less than a dozen prescriptions in my entire life, thankfully) that it’s easy to allow inertia to take over in terms of medicines, and just assume that since you’ve been taking a particular drug for months or years that you need to keep taking it. 

Unfortunately I think a lot of doctors also don’t think much about reviewing medicines, and just keep renewing the same one over and over.

Anyways, here’s some pretty good advice on saving money when it comes to prescription drugs.

4 easy ways to cut your drug spending

Trying to save money on prescription drugs is enough to make you reach for the pain pills. Navigating the annual changes to your health plan, figuring out insurance copays, and finding the pharmacy with the best buys can be daunting…

Dr. Jerry Avorn, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School… says that if you employ a few basic principles, you can simplify the process and save money in the bargain.

1. Go for generics

“Generics are just as good as brand-name drugs… ” Dr. Avorn says…

Dr. Avorn says it’s a common misconception that you always need an identical generic version of a name brand you’ve been prescribed… For example, if you’re taking the statin Crestor to lower your cholesterol, you won’t find a generic version of that particular drug. However, there are generics for five other statins, at least one of which may well be just as effective for you… Consumer Reports now evaluates medications just as it does cars and computers; a useful site is crbestbuydrugs.com

If you’re paying out-of-pocket, you might want to consider the generic discount plans offered by several drugstore chains and big-box stores, particularly the $4/$10 plans (for one-month and three-month supplies, respectively).

2. Periodically re-evaluate your drugs

One of the most important things you can bring to your annual physical is a bag containing all the medications you’re taking, Dr. Avorn says… Your physician may discover that some drugs duplicate the actions of others, have adverse interactions with one another, or are no longer necessary.

3. Forget about vitamins, minerals, and supplements

The title of a recent editorial in Annals of Internal Medicine sums up current medical opinion: “Enough Is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements.” If your doctor hasn’t prescribed a supplement, you probably don’t need to take one. In fact, in some cases supplements can undermine the beneficial effects of medications you are using.

4. Compare drug prices

Retail drug prices vary enormously from store to store…

The best way to comparison shop for drugs is online. At goodrx.com and rxpricequotes.com, you can type in a drug name and your ZIP code and get an idea of what pharmacies in your neighborhood are charging. Follow through with a phone call to the pharmacy, because prices can change.

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8 Responses to 4 quick tips on prescription drug savings

  1. Jerome Bigge says:

    Sites like “GoodRx” can show what drug prices are at various pharmacies. Also check out mail order pharmacies like “Express Scripts” (used to be Medco). Veterans should check with the VA as the Veterans Administration has the legal right (unlike Medicare) to negotiate drug prices with the drug companies.

  2. Jim H says:

    Definitely call around your local pharmacies. I needed to refill my 90 day generic Lipitor soon after I went off medical insurance (and on to Samaritan Ministries). The last time it was filled (through insurance) it cost around $34. When I called my local supermarket pharmacy the first price quoted was around $220. Then the pharmacist ran it through some discount services they (not sure what these are exactly) and he was able to get the price down to $32 – cheaper than with insurance! So it pays to shop around.

  3. Jim H says:

    Commenting on another post I warned against people signing up for PrescriptionBlueBook.com. DON’T DO IT. You won’t be able to cancel your subscription; at least that was my experience. It’s a rip-off.

    • sean@impactpolicymanagement.com says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Jim. I’d like to hear from anybody else who has had similar problems.

      • Jim H says:

        Well Sean, I take it all back. I just spoke directly with the owner of PrescriptionBlueBook.com, who is a retired pharmacist in South Carolina. I do NOT believe it is a scam, BUT it is nonetheless impossible to cancel your subscription online. You need to call, leave a message, and they’ll take care of it. The bottom line is that it’s a small operation and the company the owner hired for the customer interface may not be doing its job.

  4. Alan says:

    There are a few name-brand drugs that have no generic equivalent. Dilantin is one of them. You will be told that Phenytoin is the generic equivalent of Dilantin, but it is not. It’s close, but not the same. It does not work as well for reducing Epileptic seizures in many thousands of patients.

    • sean@impactpolicymanagement.com says:

      Great point – generics can be a great deal, unless they don’t actually treat the condition properly!

  5. Don says:

    There are some great tips on saving money at the pharmacy. There are more ways to save not covered in the article.

    First, when shopping around, make sure you check with the local independent pharmacy. They are a local business and are more likely to try and work with you on the price. Also, you will be amazed at how much better the service is over the big chains.

    The tip on reevaluating your medications is excellent. It is common for a medication to cause a side effect and a second medication is added to treat the side effect caused by the first. Switching the initial medication could sometime solve the problem. Also, sometimes a new medication is intended to be short term therapy but for whatever reason the patient remains on it long term. See if what you are taking is still needed.

    Prescription discount cards can be very helpful for those who so not have insurance. There are several around and many are free. It can’t hurt to try one and sometimes the savings are significant. One of these card can be found at prescriptiondrugcard.org.

    Brand name drug coupons. There are literally hundreds of coupons available online for brand name prescription and over the counter medications. The programs and savings vary but major savings can be had in just a few minutes. Just look at the manufacturer’s website for savings programs.

    Finally, look for alternatives withing a class of medications. It is not uncommon for one medication in a class to be expensive but another one which works in the same way to be reasonably priced. Involve your doctor early on and let him/her know you want something affordable. They are often willing to work with you to ensure you get the needed medications.

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