Drugs – 9 Ways to save money
The cost of prescription
drugs can wipe out you budget, and that’s if you just have
a short-term medical problem. If you have chronic illnesses, just the cost of prescription
drugs can far exceed all of your other bills combined.
For those that depend on Medicare or Medicaid or those
that simply don’t have insurance to cover the costs of
prescription drugs, these costs are unbearable.
Saving money on
You may have to work at cutting
the costs of prescription drugs, but it can be done if
you follow some basic steps:
Check out Canadian
Pharmacies for the costs that they advertise online.
Be sure of course that you are only dealing with a
licensed Canadian pharmacist, and if someone offers to sell you
medications without a prescription, you are most certainly
dealing with an unethical pharmacist.
Only deal with pharmacists that operate within the law
and you are much safer.
Generic prescription drugs
If there is a generic
prescription equivalent to the name brand medications that
you are taking, ask your doctor if going the generic route will
work. Try to start
with these if at all possible.
There may be others but we know of two medications where
it is difficult to switch.
Coumadin (generic name: Warfarin Sodium) and Synthroid
(generic name: Levothroid). But this is not because of any
flaw in the generics. Warfarin is an anticoagulant, and
Levothroid is for the thyroid.
Because they both require such
a delicate balance in the system, it's not recommended to switch
brands. If a doctor writes you a prescription for Synthroid or
Coumadin, try to start with the generic version or you may end
up taking the high cost brand name indefinitely.
Talk to your doctor about
If your doctor writes a prescription
and then writes “DAW”, “dispense as written”, or checks
the ‘no generic allowed’ box on the form, ask why they are
not allowing you to have the cheaper generic version.
There may be a reason, but in other instances, your
doctor may be doing a drug rep a favor by writing more
brand-name prescriptions. Explain
to your doctor that when these are written as brand names, they
cost you more and ask him to mark “Generics when available”
in your medical chart.
If you show up at your
pharmacist with a DAW prescription, your pharmacist cannot fill
it with a generic medication unless the doctor authorizes the
change. It isn’t
There are also some brand name
drugs without a generic that are in the same family of drugs as
a different brand name that has a generic available. Ultracet,
for example, contains acetaminophen along with the same drug as
Ultram (generic name: Tramadol). It might save you money to get
a prescription for Tramadol and take over-the-counter (OTC)
If the doctor writes a
prescription for acetaminophen, the pharmacist may be able to
run the OTC acetaminophen through as a prescription so you don't
have to pay sales tax on it.
OTC medications as
There are some OTC medications
that are also available as prescription medications.
If you take such a medication, see if it makes
sense for you to buy it as a prescription, even if you
have to double the potency and then cut the pill in half.
If this can be done, you might not have to pay sales tax
and you may also be able to deduct it from your taxes if you
Drug companies like to take a prescription
medication that they are about to wear out the patent on and
modify it ever so slightly and then repackage it as a NEW
medication with a new patent.
Doing so keeps them from losing the high-dollar costs if
they can keep people from switching over to low cost generics.
One of the most successful
drugs that employs this dirty trick is Nexium (the
"new" purple pill). Nexium is the same basic molecule
as Prilosec (which is OTC and has a very affordable generic,
Omeprazole), only Nexium is a mix of "left hand" and
"right hand" molecules and Prilosec is only
"right hand" molecules. There's a rumor going around
that Nexium works better because it's "new", but this
simply isn’t true.
Another notable example is how
Eli Lilly has re-patented Prozac (fluoxetine) as three other
"new" drugs (Serafem, Fontex, and Symbyax*) then
proceeded to advertise the hell out of Serafem as a treatment
for pre-menstrual depression to get women to pay the premium for
it instead of buying generic fluoxetine instead.
[* Symbyax is actually a combination of fluoxetine and
Cutting prescription shipping
If you have to order several
medications each month, try to do them together.
In many cases, you can avoid additional shipping charges
over the minimum cost by grouping your medications into one
Splitting your pills in half
Drugs such as Lipitor
and Zocur cost very little more for a higher dose.
If you don’t pay a flat co-pay or don’t have any
prescription drug insurance, ask how much money you could save
if you bought half as many pills in a double dose and split them
in half. It's
possible to quarter pills, but you can have a mess because pills
have a tendency to crumble.
More than one month
In some cases, it is possible
to get a prescription written for more than one month of
medications at a time. Some
are available to be written for up to 3 months and on some
medications, you can get a vacation override for the normal prescription.
This of course can save you money on shipping but it can
also save you money because you are buying a larger number of
pills. It reduces
the amount of paperwork, the number of times you have to
purchase, and as a bonus, it generally makes life just a bit
This however, is not up to your
pharmacist. If you
only have a one-month prescription, there is nothing that
any drug store, online or offline, in the USA or in Canada can
do about it. Your
doctor is the only one that can do this.
If your doctor won’t do this, there is a reason
however. Doctors will rarely write prescriptions that go past
the next time that they need to see you.
In other cases, Federal law prevents them from writing
out more than one month at a time.
This is always true with narcotic medications, which you
cannot get from Canada anyway.
If you cannot get this larger prescription,
do not ask your pharmacist or doctor to do it for you anyway.
They cannot, will not, and if they did, they would lose
their license, be fined, and possibly go to jail.
It simply isn’t going to happen no matter how much you
plead or yell or what your story is all about.
Even if they don’t like the law, nobody is going to
potentially throw away their career and life so someone can save
a few bucks on some pills.
are prescription medication discount programs all over
the place. These
generally don’t compare to the discounted costs of Canadian
for narcotics, antibiotics, and other drugs that you can only
get at a local pharmacy, these can still save you money.
Before you buy into a prescription medication discount
program, be sure to check out prices and also ask your local
pharmacy what they recommend.
Some have senior discount programs that don’t cost you
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pharmacies and online drug stores