Consumers have noticed the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs for some time, and there seems to be no end in sight. Even if your health care plan covers prescribed medication, co-payments that were $5 or $10 just a few years ago may have increased to $20 or $30 to cover the higher costs. Some new medications may cost hundreds of dollars just for a month’s supply.
By communicating with your physician and taking advantage of all your health care plan offers, you can help stem the rising tide of medication costs. Here are some tips to help:
- Does your health care plan offer a mail-order prescription service? Although not as convenient as your corner drugstore, mail order can offer steep discounts.
Most mail-order services provide online ordering, which can be relatively simple. However, there can be up to a week a delay in getting your medication, so mail order is probably not your best bet if the doctor is prescribing antibiotics for a sinus infection or any condition that needs treatment immediately.
For daily medications, mail order can be convenient when you plan ahead for the shipping time. If your physician is writing a new prescription, ask for two: one for a one-month supply and one for a longer supply. You can fill the one-month prescription at your retail pharmacy, so you’ll have your medication right away, and send the longer-period one to the mail-order pharmacy.
If you aren’t sure mail-order service is for you, start with a prescription for a three-month supply or less. It can be difficult sometimes for a retail pharmacy to obtain access to refills still available if you want to switch back.
- Talk to your doctor about generic drugs. Costs for generic drugs can be substantially less than their brand-name counterparts, and co-payments tend to be lower, too.
The United States Food and Drug Administration puts generic drugs through virtually the same rigorous testing as it does new medications.
The FDA requires the manufacturer to prove the generic drug is as effective as the brand-name medication, evaluates the manufacturing practices, checks the ingredients, reviews the product and its labeling, inspects manufacturing facilities, and monitors quality. The generic manufacturer has to seek approval from the FDA if it changes the product, and has to report adverse reactions, just like the brand-name manufacturers.
Your doctor will know if a generic brand is best to treat your condition.
- If you have prescription coverage, become familiar with your plan’s formulary. A formulary is a list of drugs covered by your health care plan. Non-formulary medications either have a higher co-payment or may not be covered at all. If your medication is non-formulary, ask your physician if another medication that is covered will do the job.
- Be dubious of new drugs heavily marketed by pharmaceutical companies. The newest drug to lower cholesterol, stop heartburn or cure you of social anxiety may appear to offer a quick miracle cure, but it may not be the best medication for you. Ask your physician about the new medication, but be open-minded to other, less costly, drugs.
- Shop around. Call your supermarket, discount store and your local drugstore for a price comparison of your prescription. You may be surprised to find that the cost can vary quite a bit.
As tempting as it may be sometimes to cut back on medication to save money, remember that not taking prescriptions exactly as your doctor ordered may cause more medical issues down the road. Ask your physician if alternative drugs are available.