My name is Dr. Jen- I am a Doctor of Pharmacy, patient advocate, senior care pharmacist, mom, and extreme lover of good deals. I’ve spent the majority of my career in community pharmacy, and have seen the prices of medication truly skyrocket in the past 10 years. When it comes to saving money on medications, I’m sure you’ve heard the typical advice- take a generic. But there’s actually many more ways to save. As an insider, I’m sharing with you, 10 ways to save money on your medications, you’ve probably never thought of:
1. Find out if you are taking your medications properly
While this may seem like a silly question, inhalers and nose sprays only come with a certain amount of medication per actuation. To avoid losing any medication, you may need to shake your medication in order to get the maximum amount out of your device. Consult the package insert that came with your medication for specific instructions.
However, if you find you have trouble using your inhaler, consider asking your doctor for a spacer. Read more about spacers here (http://www.pamf.org/asthma/education/handouts/Asthma_Inhaler_Spacer.pdf)
2. Check the Blink Health Price
(Please note this is not a paid advertisement of any sort)
Blink Health is a fantastic company. I saved over 50% on one of my medications by using their app. It’s super easy to use. You pay Blink for your medication through the app or their website and they give you a member card. You show this card to the pharmacy by printing it or just showing the pharmacy your member card on your phone. They will enter the info from your member card into their computer like they would an insurance card, and you don’t pay anything at the pharmacy because you already paid the app. Some might say this is too good to be true, but I worked in a community pharmacy setting for many many years and know exactly how the billing process works.
I highly suggest going to BlinkHealth.com or download the app to see what the Blink price is for your medication(s) before heading to the pharmacy. Once you are there you can compare the Blink price against the price with your insurance, if you have it. More than half of the most prescribed generic drugs in the U.S. cost less than $10 with Blink Health. Additionally, as of January 1, 2017, Blink has negotiated some terrific prices on insulin directly with the drug companies.
Furthermore, Blink can save you money on over-the-counter medications with a prescription from your doctor. For example, generic Allegra (fexofenadine) bought from the shelf can cost upwards of $20 for thirty tablets at your local drug store. But, by using Blink, those thirty tablets will only cost you $12.49 at the pharmacy. The monthly savings can really add up if you take multiple over-the-counter medications.
3. Have a Comprehensive Medication Review
Have your medication regimen reviewed by a pharmacist who is certified in medication therapy management. A comprehensive medication review identifies and eliminates medication-related problems. A few examples of these problems include changing medications you take that are too expensive with cheaper alternatives that work just as well. Additionally, a review can identify prescribing cascades- the process whereby the side effects of drugs are misdiagnosed as symptoms of another medical problem, resulting in further prescriptions being prescribed, further side effects, and unanticipated drug interactions.
In my practice I provide medication reviews specifically to seniors. They are extremely vulnerable to prescribing cascades because they take more prescriptions than the rest of the population. To locate a Certified Geriatric Pharmacist, such as myself, for a medication review click here http://www.ccgp.org/locate-a-CGP
4. Contact the manufacturer or get a manufacturer coupon
If you are prescribed a brand name medication go to the manufacturer’s website to see if they offer any savings programs. Often these savings are in the form of a coupon that you can print out and take to the pharmacy.
Other manufacturers will offer patient assistance programs that you will need to qualify for. For example, I had a patient who needed an expensive arthritis medication injected in his knee, but his Medicare Part D prescription plan would not cover it. I told him to contact the manufacturer and see what they could do for him. The manufacturer ended up mailing the medication directly to his doctor and he had it injected in his knee at the doctor’s office at no cost to him.
5. Find out if there is an over-the-counter alternative to your prescription medications
Ask your doctor or pharmacist if there is an over-the-counter alternative to any of the medications you are taking. Many people take proton pump inhibitors for acid reflux and esophageal protection. But, PPIs can be purchased very inexpensively over-the-counter. For example, Protonix (pantoprazole) is one of the most popular PPIs prescribed by doctors. However, Prevacid (lansoprazole), Prilosec (omeprazole), and Nexium (esomeprazole) are PPIs available over-the-counter at a much lower price that are just as effective. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist about what dose you need to take to receive the equivalent dose of the PPI you already take.
6. Bring your prescription formulary with you to every doctor’s appointment
Go to your insurance company’s website and print out their prescription formulary. This is the list of medications they will pay for. If you have trouble finding it online, call the customer service number on the back of your prescription insurance card and have them mail it to you. Then show it to each doctor at each appointment when they are prescribing new medications or refilling old ones.
Your doctor wants you to be able to afford your medication so that you will take it. Do not be afraid to speak up. This is something I personally do, so I am not surprised at the cost when I go to my pharmacy to fill my prescriptions.
7. Ask for medication samples
Many doctors’ offices have closets filled to the brim of just sample of medications. When drug representatives stop by their office they will leave doctors with tons of free samples of the medications they represent. These drugs often just sit in a closet somewhere in the office. If your doctor is prescribing a new medication and you’re not sure if it’s going to work, ask your doctor for a sample so you don’t waste your money on the medication. In fact, when I was pregnant with my daughter, my OB had so many free samples of my prenatal vitamin that I never had to fill the prescription they gave me for it. I was able to go the whole pregnancy on just samples.
8. Cut your medication(s) in half
Click this link for a list of medications that cannot be crushed http://www.ismp.org/tools/donotcrush.pdf
If your medication is NOT on this list you might be able to have the doctor prescribe your medication at double the strength and then cut your medication in half to make it last longer. For example, if you take Lipitor (atorvastatin) 20mg, have your doctor prescribe 40mg for you with the directions: take 1 tablet every day. This way if your doctor prescribes 30 tablets it will last you 60 days, but you will only have to pay for 30 tablets.
9. Ask how long you have to take your medications
Believe it or not, when a pharmacy sends a refill request to your doctor, many doctors will approve a refill when you don’t actually need the medication anymore. I used to see this happen a lot in my pharmacy with potassium supplements. Too much potassium is a major concern as it can lead to dangerous heart arrhythmias. So it is important that you find out exactly how long you will need to take each medication in order to avoid dangerous side effects that can occur with prolonged medication use.
10. Ask your pharmacy if they price match
The pharmacy that I worked at price matched, but they did not advertise it. We were told only to offer it to patients at their request. With the exception of CVS, there are so many pharmacies that have the same policy mine did. So if you know the price of your medication is cheaper elsewhere or is on one of those “$4 Lists” just print out the information and bring it with you to your usual pharmacy. You want to fill all medications at one pharmacy to avoid any drug interactions and adverse effects that could occur when a pharmacy doesn’t have a list of all the medications you take.
I hope you are able to save money by using the tips in this article! As a Medication Expert I save my patients hundreds to thousands of dollars per year with Comprehensive Medication Reviews (aka Medication Check-ups). Learn more about this service by going to www.drjenwolfe.com/cmr