Saturday, November 29, 2008

Ways to Reduce Your Pharmacy Bill

There are plenty of ways you can reduce your pharmacy bill. The Cost Containment Research Institute ( has compiled a list of 17. Here are a few ideas for you to consider:
  • Shop around by phone. Make a list of your medications, including strength and number taken daily, and call at least six pharmacies to compare prices, keeping in mind whether the pharmacies are on your plan.
  • Use a pill splitter (but do your research first). Many drugs are cheaper if you buy them in larger doses, then cut them in half. Ask your pharmacist or doctor first, though, since many drugs cannot be split without reducing their effectiveness. Most pharmacists say you should split only pills that are scored (i.e., those with a predesigned breakoff line). However, Toby Rogers from Rxaminer says, “We split a lot of pills that aren’t scored; you should be able to split pills that aren’t a ‘long acting’ type or encapsulated.”
  • Save by buying a 90- versus a 30-day supply. Most pharmacies offer higher savings if you buy a larger supply. In addition, people with insurance prescription coverage may save even more by getting a larger-day supply.
  • Over-the-counter drugs may be as effective as the prescription drugs. Most prescription cold medications average $20 to $60 for a onemonth supply and contain the same decongestant that is available over the counter for less than $2. Some doctors still prescribe 20-milligram Pepcid to their patients, which can cost $60 for a onemonth supply. Pepcid AC comes over the counter in 10-milligram strength; taking double the dose costs approximately $23.
  • Stop using drugs you no longer need. You should review all your prescriptions with your doctor at each visit. You may be taking drugs you no longer need. Also, report any side effects and ask questions about possible drug interactions. Don’t hesitate to ask your pharmacist questions; it’s free and can often save you money.
  • Take only those drugs you really need. When your doctor prescribes medication for you, make sure you understand exactly what it’s meant to do and for how long. If you are prescribed two drugs for the same symptom, ask whether you really need both; if you develop new symptoms ask your doctor if the prescribed medicine could be causing it.
  • You may qualify for a free drug program. There are over 1,100 drugs that are made by 100 manufacturers that have free drug programs. Most major drug companies provide free medications but rarely, if ever, publicize their programs. An estimated $2 billion worth of free medication is given away annually. You can get a complete list of drugs and manufacturers’ programs at
  • Veterans have their own drug benefits. Recent laws grant veterans medical benefits for certain illnesses, like diabetes and hypertension, provided the veteran is subject to qualifying conditions such as Agent Orange exposure. Check with the Veteran’s Administration to see whether you qualify for benefits.
  • Buy home test kits. Kits for determining ovulation, pregnancy, and colorectal cancer can be purchased as home tests at half the price of similar kits from your doctor’s office.
  • Look for special deals by local governments. You can save on prescription drugs through special deals offered by state and local governments and even religious organizations. The states of Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Vermont, and Wisconsin have initiated a web site where residents can buy 100 commonly used drugs from Canada, Britain, and Ireland at a discount of anywhere from 25 to 50 percent. The address for the site is

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