Many Americans rely on prescription drugs to maintain their health and well-being.
But costly medications can drain wallets, especially in a weak economy, leading some patients to risk cutting back on prescriptions or skipping dosages.
“Many consumers are having prescriptions written but are not having them filled,” says Mark Brueckl, the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy’s assistant director of pharmacy affairs.
But finding affordable prescriptions isn’t impossible. Switching to generic medications can save money without compromising health — generics must pass rigorous testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to demonstrate they are as safe and effective as their branded counterpart.
Roughly 80 top-selling brand drugs are losing patent protection between 2009 and 2012, meaning generic versions will soon become available. According to the Congressional Budget Office, generic drugs save consumers an estimated $8 billion to $10 billion annually at retail pharmacies.
If a generic version of your brand drug does not exist, consider asking your doctor if another generic product is available in the same therapeutic category. Over-the-counter versions of medications might be available. Some pharmaceutical manufacturer programs also offer patient assistant programs with discount rate cards, trial cards or samples.
Others options for saving money include:
Filling prescriptions through mail-order programs and ordering multiple months’ worth of prescriptions, thus saving copayments and shipping costs. These options are often available through pharmacy benefit managers.
Splitting tablets in half. Some prescription drugs cost the same per tablet, regardless of the dosage. See if your doctor can write a prescription for double your dosage — for example, 80 milligrams instead of 40 milligrams — then split the tablets in half. Never halve drugs with special coatings or slow-release formulas.
See if you’re eligible for Medicare. If so, you qualify for Medicare prescription drug coverage regardless of income or health status.