Following a treatment plan prescribed by your doctor is undoubtedly important. It gives you the best opportunity to manage your condition and maintain the best possible health for yourself. But what do you do if you can’t afford the medicine your doctor recommends?
With prescription medications getting more and more expensive, this is a concern for many people. If your medicine is too pricey, you may not want to fill your medicine in the first place, you may try to ration the medicine you do have, or you may procrastinate getting your next refill. While you may think these tactics are saving you money, they’re not—and they’re also not doing your health any favors.
“Medicine can be really expensive,” says Preeti Parikh, MD, HealthiNation’s chief medical editor and a pediatrician at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “[But] there are many things your doctor can do to help make your prescriptions more affordable for you.”
TIP #1: Ask your doctor about alternative medication options.
Depending on your condition and treatment plan, your doctor may be able to adjust your medication regimen to lower the cost of your medicine. Your doctor may be able to:
Offer a generic medication over a brand
Adjust your dosage (if appropriate)
Or recommend a different, more affordable medication.
TIP #2: Ask about patient assistance programs.
Patient assistance programs (PAPs) were developed to help patients get the medications that they need. If you don’t have insurance, these programs can help you afford your medicine. Check with your doctor about your options.
TIP #3: Consider a 90-day supply
Depending on your treatment plan: “Instead of getting a 30-day supply, you can get a 90-day supply and that will help you save money,” says Punkaj Khanna, Pharm. D., a pharmacist based in New York City. (Note: To switch to 90-day fills, you'll need a new prescription from your doctor. A 30-day quantity prescription will not allow 90-day fills.)
“Not only would this reduce the number of trips that you would have to take to the pharmacy, if you have insurance, you would only have to pay one co-pay instead of three,” says Khanna.
What’s more: If you have insurance or Medicare, you could get your 90-day supply delivered to you by mail.
“Filling and taking your medicine is as equally important as a healthy lifestyle,” says Dr. Parikh. “You should work with your team—which includes you, your doctor, and your pharmacist—to make sure you get the medication that you need.”
Medication Adherence. Chicago, IL: American Medical Association. (Accessed on November 14, 2021 at https://edhub.ama-assn.org/steps-forward/module/2702595)
Kesselheim AS, Avorn J, Sarpatwari A. The High Cost of Prescription Drugs in the United States: Origins and Prospects for Reform. JAMA. 2016;316(8):858–871.
How to Help Your Low-Income Patients Get Prescription Drugs. Leawood, KS: American Academy of Family Physicians. (Accessed on November 14, 2021 at https://www.aafp.org/fpm/2002/1100/p51.html)
Can Your Patients Afford the Medications You Prescribe? Leawood, KS: American Academy of Family Physicians. (Accessed on November 14, 2021 at https://www.aafp.org/fpm/2006/0400/p67.html)
Taitel M, Fensterheim L, Kirkham H, Sekula R, Duncan I. Medication days' supply, adherence, wastage, and cost among chronic patients in Medicaid. Medicare Medicaid Res Rev. 2012 Sep 19;2(3):mmrr.002.03.a04. doi: 10.5600/mmrr.002.03.a04