Affording Prescription Drugs and Medical Care
The price of prescription drugs continues to go up, and finding ways to save on what can be a big expense, especially if you take several medications, is necessary. There are several ways you can save on prescription drugs, but you have to be conscientious about making choices that are not only cost-effective, but safe.
Generic Versus Brand-Name Drugs
There is considerable savings in using generic drugs. If you are open to using generic versions of your prescribed medications when available, make sure your doctor marks “Substitution Allowed” on your written prescription. You can also let your pharmacy know you want generic drugs when available. Actually, some pharmacies automatically fill prescriptions with generic equivalents unless specifically requested to use brand names instead. Check with your pharmacist to be sure you understand their policy regarding generic drugs. If you have prescription drug coverage, your copay will be less for generic drugs. If you pay out of pocket for all of your prescription drugs, the savings for generic versus brand-name drugs is significant.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) reports that between 1999 and 2003, the amount spent on brand-name drugs increased from $75.5 billion to $141 billion. The amount spent on generic drugs increased from $19 billion to $37 billion.
It's not commonly known that larger quantities of pills are often given a price break. A ninety-day supply compared to a thirty-day supply can offer you considerable savings. Pharmacies also offer savings on drugs that are commonly stocked. Sometimes you can purchase the higher strength of a certain medication because it is cheaper and break it in half. This doesn't always work, however. In the case of enteric-coated medications, pill splitting can interfere with the way the medication works. Discuss this option with your doctor.
Choice of Pharmacy
As with anything, shopping around will save you money on prescriptions. It can be difficult to call around for price quotes from local pharmacies because they are so busy. Also, if you have prescription-drug coverage, the pharmacy must run it through your insurance to obtain a price. If you are going to shop around and compare prices, prepare a list of your medications and give it to the pharmacy so they can look up prices for you when they have time. The information is obtainable, you just need to allow time and be patient.
While shopping around, remember that sticking to one pharmacy has benefits. Keeping all of your medications at one pharmacy helps to minimize the chance of pharmacy errors and helps detect drug interactions. Consider all factors, including safety and convenience, when looking for less expensive prescription medications.
Government Programs for Prescription Drugs
If you qualify for Medicare, the Medicare Part D prescription drug plan is available to you. As a Medicare beneficiary, you may choose to enroll in Medicare Part D and select from plans administered by private insurance companies. The various plans have different premiums, deductibles, copays, and drug formularies. The plans are somewhat complicated, and it's best to analyze your options initially on the Medicare Web site (
You may also be able to get help with prescription drugs if you qualify for Medicaid, a program available to low-income individuals and families who are deemed eligible according to federal and state laws. Medicaid is a state-administered health-insurance program. You can find more information specific to your state regarding qualifications and rules (
Prescription-Drug Assistance Programs
Patient-assistance programs help qualified persons who cannot afford prescription drugs obtain medications for free or very low cost. Qualified persons have no drug coverage through private or public insurance programs and meet specific financial criteria. The Partnership for Prescription Alliance is a resource for finding nearly 500 public and private patient-assistance programs, including over 150 programs offered by pharmaceutical companies. To access more information about the various programs, call 888-477-2669 or visit their Web site (
Affording Medical Care
Research conducted by the National Data Bank for Rheumatic Diseases (