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Prescription Drugs

 Prescription 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 prescription drugs

You may have to work at cutting the costs of prescription drugs, but it can be done if you follow some basic steps:

Canadian pharmacies

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 generic prescriptions

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 legal. 

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) acetaminophen instead.

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 prescription medications

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 itemize.

Re-patented prescription medications

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 olanzapine]

Cutting prescription shipping costs

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 shipping unit.

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 prescription

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 easier.

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.

Prescription medication discount programs

There are prescription medication discount programs all over the place.  These generally don’t compare to the discounted costs of Canadian drugs.  But 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 a dime.

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