Shopping for the Best Drug Prices

Options abound in almost every aspect of our lives in today’s rapidly changing world. Obtaining your needed prescriptions is no exception. Just as your prescribed medications have a myriad of colors, shapes, and sizes, purchasing options run the gamut as well. What can you do to ensure that you are getting the best prices while getting drugs that are safe? If you want to save money, it will take some time, ongoing research (prices and policies change), patience, and perseverance, but you may reap some rewards.

Know Yourself

Make a list of the drugs you take every day and the dosages. Now, assess what your shopping and savings priorities are. Ask yourself how far you are willing to travel to get your prescriptions filled. Do you want to be able to pick them up when you are doing other routine shopping, or are you ok with making a special trip? Do you want to get all your prescriptions at one place and perhaps establish a relationship with the pharmacy staff, or are you willing to get them at various locations to save money? Or, do you want the convenience of having them delivered? Are you willing to spend the time to research the best prices in your area?

Understand Your Prescription Insurance Coverage

If you have insurance, familiarize yourself with your prescription drug coverage and its limitations. What are your plan’s deductibles and what will your copays be for your maintenance drugs? (Maintenance drugs are the medications that you take on a regular basis.) Insurance companies classify medications in tiers—usually the higher the tier your drug is in, the higher the copay. You may be able to access your plan’s formulary on their website to determine the tiers of your drugs. Or, you can call your insurance company to ask.

Also, know where you can get your medications. Can you obtain your prescriptions from any pharmacy you choose or are you limited to specific ones—often called “preferred pharmacies”? Using your plan’s preferred pharmacy may save you money, but be aware that having some prescriptions filled elsewhere may be cheaper than your insurance plan’s copay. Does your plan have a mail order option, and if so, what are the prescription costs, how do you order and what is the delivery time?

Talk to Your Healthcare Provider or Pharmacist

According to an AARP analysis in 2019, about 28 percent of pre-Medicare-age adults don’t take their prescriptions as ordered because of costs. This can be dangerous to your health. There are ways to lower your costs.

When your healthcare provider writes you a new prescription, ask him about the cost of the drug, if she can prescribe a lower-cost generic, and if he has any samples. Many pharmaceutical representatives give out samples to medical providers. Getting an initial sample allows you to try the new drug before filling your prescription. Don’t be shy about asking. “Patients should ask. It is totally appropriate,” says Todd Franklin, a former pharmaceutical rep.If you are getting a newly prescribed drug, ask for a 30-day prescription. Patients react differently to various drugs. By getting a smaller supply initially, you cut your expenses if the drug doesn’t agree with you and you need to try something different. You can always request a 90-day prescription later. Most doctors file your prescription electronically with your pharmacy on record.

If the prescription isn’t urgent and you want to shop for prices, ask if you can let the practice know in a day or two where you would like it filled. Write down the name of the prescribed drug and the dosage, then go home and do your internet searches, download discount cards, and make phone calls to find the best price.

If the drug is expensive and in tablet form, ask the doctor or pharmacist if you can get a larger dose and split the tablet. Sometimes larger dose medication is less costly. Make sure you ask, though; some medications cannot be split safely.

Order by Mail

Many insurance plans offer mail order options for maintenance drugs. This may be for you if you plan ahead, are good about remembering to order your medications, and like the convenience of delivery to your door. Some providers make it easier by calling or emailing you a refill reminder. Generally, mail orders fill 90-day prescriptions, which can be less costly than a 30-day order. Be aware, however, that with some companies it can take up to two weeks to get your order.

Take Advantage of Discounts

Many chain drug stores, national grocers, and big-box wholesalers offer low-cost generic drugs and some may provide certain antibiotics or vaccinations free of charge. Their websites will give you this information, or call their pharmacy departments.

There are also apps and websites that can help you find the lowest prices on your prescriptions in your shopping areas. Some of these are GoodRX, Blink Health, and RXSaver. When you find the price you are willing to pay, simply print the coupon and take it to the pharmacy. They usually will honor that price. (See the websites for their specific policies.)

Some pharmaceutical companies offer coupons and rebates on certain medications on their websites. If you qualify, some companies offer assistance for those unable to pay. The website is provided by PhRMA member companies and can be a valuable resource. There are also private and public programs that may help. Be aware of scams, however, and never pay a fee or provide personal information if you have not verified that they are legitimate.

There are other governmental and private organizations and companies that may be of assistance if you have a serious illness or extenuating circumstances. Your healthcare provider, clinic or health-related association may have more information and help.

There are ways to cut your costs to maintain or enhance your health, but they often take initiative and persistence. The prescription savings results can be up to you.

Shar Peters

Shar Peters has been freelance writing for more than 20 years. She lives in Peachtree City with her husband, Charlie, and their two dogs. Shar loves to travel, and with children and grandchildren living in six different states, there is always someone to visit, something to do, and a guaranteed new adventure in store.