I haven’t mentioned it in a long-time, but in former life (we are going back to my high school and college years), I was a pharmacy technician. I found it incredibly dull and couldn’t understand why one would ever want to make a career of it. Life has it’s interesting twists and turns and 6 years after I left the pharmacy business, I met my future wife… a pharmacist. While I didn’t tap her knowledge for this article (she’s got enough to do right now), she has given me a few tips on how to save money on medicine in the past.
- Have a Good Insurance Plan with a Low Co-Pays – It’s not easy, but any complete article would have to include some mention of insurance and co-pays.
- Pick the Right Store
- Buy at Wal-Mart – Wal-Mart has some great prices on medications. They’ve been pushing their $4 a month (or $10 for 90-day) prescription program. It obviously can’t cover any drug, but with hundreds of options there’s a good chance your prescription is covered. Wal-Mart also has some of the best prices on over-the-counter drugs I’ve seen
- Buy at Costco – I don’t know if it’s true of only Costco, but I’ve read that the big warehouse stores
- Buy Generic – I had a friend who was big on “not skimping on medication.” In theory that sounds fine, brilliant even. However, generic and brand name drugs are one in the same. As the FDA says, “A generic drug is the same as a brand name drug in dosage, safety, strength, how it is taken, quality, performance, and intended use. Before approving a generic drug product, FDA requires many rigorous tests and procedures to assure that the generic drug can be substituted for the brand name drug. The FDA bases evaluations of substitutability, or “therapeutic equivalence,” of generic drugs on scientific evaluations. By law, a generic drug product must contain the identical amounts of the same active ingredient(s) as the brand name product. Drug products evaluated as “therapeutically equivalent” can be expected to have equal effect and no difference when substituted for the brand name product.”
That said, I read last year that some generic drugs from China and India may not be safe. Looking at this article, it seems like the FDA might not even allow any generic drugs from China at this time. In looking into this more, it seems like it might be years before the US gets any significant part of it’s generic drugs from China. (Note: I don’t mean to pick on China, it’s just where I could find an authoritative source… plus the lead toy scare is still in people’s minds.)
- Buy in Bulk – I buy acetaminophen (Tylenol) in very large quantities. The problem with this is expiration dates. Confession time: I sometimes take expired over-the-counter medication when it’s to fix a sudden sympton: i.e. cold, headache, etc. I would never take an expired prescribed drug. However, please don’t follow my example on expired medication blindly. This is a case where there’s a large distinction between me saying what I do and saying you should do. It is my belief that some of those medications have half-lives and if I’m taking something expired by a little bit, I might not be getting the full dose. I’m okay with that in the case of acetaminophen. However, again, I may be very wrong on this. I don’t know if I could put more disclaimers on this.
- Ask Your Doctor if a Generic Drug Would Suffice – I think there are new laws to limit how doctors get kickbacks from drug manufacturers, but it wasn’t always this way. For years, doctors would get taken out to sporting events and the like. That may not happen any more, but I’m not sure the doctor is always looking out for the patients’ wallet (or pocketbook). Another idea is to again look towards the FDA for equivalent drugs. Of course, if there’s a good reason for the brand name, then go with that. Health comes first, right?
- If you are low-income, look into Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs) – These programs can be a life-saver (literally) for those who qualify. One place to learn more is at the the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.
- Buy Online from Canada? – This would be a very last option for me. For one thing, it strikes me as likely illegal (though I’m no lawyer and I haven’t done research into this). For another thing, I don’t know how much I can trust a company in another country that I only have an online relationship with. If you can deal with that it seems like the savings are there to be had.
- Exercise, Eat Well, and Take Care of Yourself – An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, right?