Four Tips To Save On Prescription Meds

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The economy is still bad and more and more people are struggling to pay for their prescription medications. In fact, millions of us are affected. Here tips on how to make your drug dollars go further.

1) Swallow your pride: Discard whatever lingering discomfort you may have about discussing price with either your doctor or your pharmacist. You will probably be pleasantly surprised with the result, since the one doctor who is not aware of cost as a major issue is probably practicing medicine under a rock. In a desert. Or possibly in Hollywood – either way, we’re talking total fantasyland here. So how do you start this uncomfortable discussion, especially if it’s never been an issue before? Think of cost as a side-effect (and a common, painful one too). Here’s a tip – don’t wait to ask about drug cost until after the prescription is written. Your doctor might be a little grumpy (and possibly resistant to changing the drug) because he/she will have to re-do the prescription(s). Instead, ask up front when the “you may need a medicine/change your dose/get refills” discussion starts.

2) Be bold. Don’t be shy when it comes time to get your prescription filled. Pharmacies of all kinds are some of the last hold-outs of secretive pricing. If you don’t ask up front (preferably by phone, calling numerous pharmacies) you may, like Doc Gurley, be standing at the Pick Up Your Prescription line with a million irritable people behind you as the pharmacy assistant leans forward and says, “That’ll be $1,067.24.” Calling, and/or asking in advance about the price will also save you the slight embarrassment of asking for your prescription back so you can take it somewhere else.

3) Can You Do The Splits? Taking a bigger dose pill and cutting it in half can save you some big bucks. However, this option is not safe or effective for all medicines. Any drug that is time-released, for example, is probably not a good choice for splitting, because it can destroy the time-release coating. Studies have also shown that, even with a pill splitter (anyone who’s splitting pills should own one!), there can be variations in the size of pill fragments. For many drugs, a 20% difference in size after splitting may not be a big deal, but for some categories of drugs – like heart medicines and antibiotics, those differences can be sometimes dangerous. If you are thinking of splitting, be sure to ask your doctor about it – especially if you’re splitting the last of your pills to make them go farther. It may be dangerous for you to do so, or there may be a better, cheaper way to address the issue. But for some pills, splitting is a real winner, cost-wise. It’s so cost-saving, for example, that some systems automatically suggest the larger Viagra dose (plus pill-splitter) – thereby saving the patient approximately $10 a pop (so to speak). Bottom line: Ask your doctor before splitting willy-nilly. If it’ll work for you, bingo!

4) Go generic: Numerous studies have confirmed the effectiveness of generics. Being a brand-snob can cost you, big-time. If the options are to a) skip your medicine, or b) go generic, it’s time to give the generic options a whirl. The emerging categories of drugs where generics seem more variable are psych meds, and pain meds. In both cases, if you give the generics a try, and you don’t feel like you’re getting the same result, talk to your healthcare provider about dose-adjustments, which might improve the situation for you while still reducing costs.

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