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16 Ways to Get Help With Expensive Prescriptions

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In the United States, a dose of the asthma medication Dulera costs around $23.95;meanwhile, it costs 49 cents on average in other countries, according to a 2019 congressional report. That 5,000% premium is illustrative of a uniquely American problem — namely, the punishingly high cost of life-saving medications


While the reasons behind these sky-high costs are varied, most Americans agree that the price of prescription drugs is too dang high. That’s why we’ve come up with a number of tangible ways you can get help with expensive prescriptions.


Use GoodRx

Eligibility: Everyone

Difficulty: Easy

Savings: High


GoodRx is a free tool that lets consumers compare drug prices across major pharmacies and online drug providers. Just type in what you need, and you’ll quickly see a list of pharmacies and their drug prices. GoodRx also offers free digital coupons, which you can show your pharmacist for a discount. Members of the company’s Gold plan, which costs $9.99 for individuals and $19.99 for families, have access to even steeper drug discounts — along with some other perks.


Consider Patient Assistance Programs

Eligibility: Primarily low-income, underinsured, or uninsured Americans

Difficulty: Moderate

Savings: High


Pharmaceutical companies, nonprofits, and government agencies offer Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs), which provide discounted — or even free — medicines if you can’t afford your healthcare costs. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America provides a comprehensive list of these resources, and the nonprofit NeedyMeds has a database of prescription drugs that could be eligible.


Here is a list of some of the larger programs that may be able to help (a more comprehensive list can be found at the website NeedyMeds):



Buy Prescription Drugs Online

Eligibility: Everyone

Difficulty: Easy

Savings: High


Online pharmacies like DiRx, HealthWarehouse, and GeniusRX tend to offer more competitive prices compared to brick-and-mortar competitors. To give you an idea of how much you can save, 30 tablets of the popular statin Lipitor costs just $4 at DiRx while CVS charges $30.26. But be careful online, and visit the FDA’s BeSafeRx website to check if an online pharmacy is legitimate.


Purchase Drugs Through Mark Cuban's Company

Eligibility: Everyone

Difficulty: Easy

Savings: High


While it's essentially another online pharmacy, billionaire Mark Cuban's middleman-free Cost Plus Drug Company deserves its own entry. Why? The savings are huge. Rather than price gouging, Cost Plus only marks up drug prices by 15% (enough to cover overhead and investment), plus pharmacy handling and shipping fees. The cancer drug Imatinib, which would normally set you back thousands of dollars, costs just $14.40 at Cost Plus.


Get a Prescription Discount Card

Eligibility: Everyone

Difficulty: Easy

Savings: Medium


Prescription discount cards allow you to pay a lower price on medications. You simply scan the card at a participating pharmacy and receive a discount. Some of the most popular prescription discount card providers include GoodRx, SingleCare, Optum Perks, ScriptSave WellRx, and Rx Saver.


Set Up a Health Savings Account

Eligibility: Patients with high-deductible plans

Difficulty: Moderate

Savings: Medium


If you have a high deductible and aren’t enrolled in Medicare, then you can likely open a Health Savings Account, which will let you bank pre-tax income to cover costs that your insurance doesn’t pay. After you set up your account, you’ll receive a debit card, which you can use to pay for prescription drugs — among other healthcare expenses.


Switch to Generics

Eligibility: Everyone

Difficulty: Easy

Savings: Medium


In the past decade, generic drugs have saved Americans more than $1 trillion dollars, according to a 2019 study. And given that generic drugs go through the exact same FDA approval process, you’ll essentially get the same prescription for a lower price. That said, not all medications have a generic equivalent, so be sure to consult with a pharmacist.


Ask for a Discount at Your Local Pharmacy

Eligibility: Everyone

Difficulty: Easy

Potential Savings: Low


Large pharmacy chains aren’t always cheaper, in part because you may be able to negotiate with your local pharmacist. So turn on the charm and ask nicely. The worst that can happen is they say no.


Change Your Insurance Plan

Eligibility: Everyone

Difficulty: Hard

Potential Savings: High


While it might not be easy or possible to change your health insurance, switching to a new plan or provider could save you big bucks. Medications on your plan’s “formulary,” the approved prescription list, will be cheaper, so it’s worth making sure that your plan lists the medications you need.


Ask for a 90-Day Supply

Eligibility: Everyone

Difficulty: Easy

Potential Savings: Medium


Some pharmacies offer lower copays if you opt for a 90-day supply rather than the standard 30-day refill. If you go this route, you’ll have to ask your doctor to write a new prescription.


Split a Larger Dose in Half

Eligibility: Ask your doctor

Difficulty: Easy

Potential Savings: High


Prescription drugs often cost the same irrespective of the dose. So if you’re able to order a higher dose — say 40mg instead of 20mg — you may be able to cut the larger pill in half and save 50% on your prescription. Of course, make sure to talk to your doctor first, as you can’t easily divide certain medications.


Try a Cheaper Medication

Eligibility: Ask your doctor 

Difficulty: Hard

Potential Savings: High


Although Pexeva and Prozac both treat depression and belong to the same class of drug, the former is more than 70 times more expensive than the latter. That’s not to say that you can just switch medications willy-nilly. You ought to do your own research and have a serious conversation with your doctor. But, if it makes medical sense, then switching to a different medication that does the same thing might save you a lot of dough.


Shop at Preferred Pharmacies

Eligibility: Ask your insurance provider

Difficulty: Easy

Potential Savings: Low


Check with your healthcare provider to see if they have a list of preferred pharmacies. When you buy your prescription from these pharmacies, you’ll pay a lower cost share. For example, members of Blue Shield’s Rx Spectrum pharmacy network get lower prices at CVS Pharmacy, Costco, Safeway, and Vons.


Check Out Pharmacy Discount Programs

Eligibility: Everyone

Difficulty: Easy

Savings: Medium


Large pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS also have their own discount programs in place. For a monthly fee — $20 a year for an individual and $35 a year for a family — you can join Walgreens’ Prescription Savings Club, which gives you access to discounted medications, refills, and immunizations. Check with your pharmacy to see if it has something similar.


Consider a Stand-Alone Prescription Drug Plan

Eligibility: Check with your insurance company

Difficulty: Hard

Savings: High


Some insurance companies offer supplemental drug plans. In exchange for a premium, the plan will cover a larger portion of your medication costs. For patients on Medicare, the government also offers its own supplementary insurance, Medicare Part D.


Apply for the Government’s Extra Help Program

Eligibility: Medicare patients

Difficulty: Medium

Savings: High


Medicare patients who struggle with healthcare costs can apply for Extra Help online or over the phone. The program, which is worth around $5,100 a year, defrays the high cost of prescription drugs and other healthcare expenses.


Live Well For Less

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