Top 7 Ways to Lower the Cost of Your Meds in 2012

Dr. Sharon Orrange
Dr. Orrange is an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Division of Geriatric, Hospitalist and General Internal Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
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In this economy people wonder what to do if they can’t afford their medications. First off, if you can’t afford your medicines talk to your doctor or pharmacist, but do not skip doses in an effort to save money.

Here are some important ways to lower the cost of your medications:

1) Ask for generic substitutes: Ask your doctor or pharmacist if any of the medicines you take are “brand-name” medications. If so, ask if they can be switched for less expensive “generic” medications. Many newer medicines do not come as generics, so it’s not always possible to switch, but it can save a lot of money even if you have insurance.

2) Ask about splitting pills: Find out if the pills you take are safe to split in half. Many prescription medications cost the same no matter what strength the pill is. Pills that can be safely split usually include those that have a line or score down the center for breaking and those that are flat, round, or long and narrow. Medicines that come in capsules or in pills that have a slow or delayed release should not be split.

3) Shop around, buy in bulk: Another way to cut the costs of your medicines is to shop around. Pharmacies do not charge the same prices for the same medicines so find out which pharmacies or stores have the best price. Many places also offer discounts for buying 100 pills or more at once.

4) Use your insurance wisely; there are three things you need to know to get the most out of your insurance coverage:

– Get a list of the drugs covered by your plan (the “formulary”).

– Get information about co-pays.

– Know about tiers. Insurance companies put drugs into different tiers with different co-pays. Tier 1 drugs are usually the cheapest, Tier 3 the most expensive.

5) Mail-order options: This will save you money on medicines you take for 3 months or longer. Mail-order is a good idea only after you know for sure that you will be taking a medicine at the same dose for at least 3 months.

6) Get help paying for the medicines you need: There are state and federal programs that help people pay for their medications, as well as programs paid for by non-profit groups and by drug companies.

7) Beware of foreign or Internet-only pharmacies: Stay away from any pharmacy that will sell you prescription medications without a prescription from a doctor who has actually seen you. Some Internet and foreign pharmacies are not licensed or inspected the way they should be and may sell you medicines that are expired or even fake.

Dr O.

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