7 Ways to Save on Your Prescriptions

Article Date: Mar 4, 2014

Bob Grenier
Bob Grenier

If you're a baby boomer born in 1957, your parents and the rest of the United States spent $1.9 billion on prescriptions that year. Fast forward to 2012 –you're now middle aged and the amount we're spending on prescriptions has grown to a dizzying $326 billion. A look into a crystal ball shows that number could soar to $512 billion by 2020, an increase of more than 2,500 percent in your lifetime!

Staying healthy can be expensive, especially if you're on meds. But the manager of Alegent Creighton Health Pharmacy Retail Services said there are ways to save money on prescriptions. Here are some of Bob Grenier's tips:

  1. Work with your doctor and your pharmacist to see if there's a less pricey alternative to a medication. "The physician‘s expertise is diagnosis and treatment," Grenier said. "The pharmacist is trained to understand the specifics of medication treatment." With electronic medical records now in use, both doctor and pharmacist can keep better track of what the patient needs and what options there are.

    Grenier's seen Alegent Creighton Clinic doctors call down to Alegent Creighton Health pharmacies during patient visits—to consult right then and there about less expensive medications. For example, because there are several options, the pharmacist may recommend a blood pressure medication that the doctor may not know costs less.

    You can also be proactive and look up your pharmacy benefits to learn the different tiers of prescriptions and the co-pays with each tier. Then take the list with you to your doctor's visit and go over your options, Grenier said.

  2. Ask for generics—but first make sure the brand medication doesn't have a voucher to save you money. The voucher is like a coupon you might use at the grocery store. Grenier said drug manufacturers "oftentimes use them to combat generics." Vouchers also are replacing free samples that the doctor occasionally gave you, Grenier said. The pharmacist will be able to help you determine what vouchers and savings programs are available.

  3. Shop around. Grenier said many patients choose pharmacies that offer $4 prescriptions. But the list is shrinking as drug companies buy generic manufacturers. "Eventually we might not have four dollar generics anymore," he said. "Look at your entire medication list. The smart thing is to try and find a place that's consistent. You want the best price on your entire medication list."

    Service is important too, he said. "No one really likes to spend money on medications so if you do it, it's important that the medications are safe, effective and lead to the desired outcome. The goal is to get the best outcome (improved health, better quality of life) from the money you spend on medications."

    And you want a pharmacist who will watch out for you and keep you out of the hospital. "Medications help people manage chronic conditions," Grenier said. "You want someone who can tell you how your medications fit into that management. A good pharmacist will alert you to cost but will also warn you about drug interactions and will make sure they're prescribed and dosed properly."

  4. Split higher-dose pills. Many pills cost about the same even if they contain twice the medication. Ask your pharmacist if your medication is safe for splitting—not all pills can be cut in two. Grenier said Alegent Creighton Health pharmacists can cut the tablets for you: it's convenient for you, they have the tools to do it and it can help avoid confusion.

    Something else Alegent Creighton Health pharmacists can do is "synchronize" the refilling of your prescriptions, he said. "Say you're taking 10 medications. We can synchronize at the pharmacy so they're all filled the same day." You'll get a call a few days before they're filled to make sure there haven't been any changes. Then you make just one trip to the pharmacy—instead of several.

  5. Save money by being savvy. Did you know some medications are 50 percent less effective when taken in the morning instead of the evening? The pharmacist can tip you off, Grenier said. He or she will also tell you whether to take a drug on an empty or full stomach, what meds don't work if you take a multivitamin every day and which medications are "finicky" about how they're absorbed. For example, he said medications for osteoporosis must be taken in the morning on an empty stomach and the patient can't lie down for a while because the medicine can damage the esophagus.

    Again—an important bit of information the pharmacist can share. "At the end of the day, you need to look at how taking medications keeps you well and helps you manage your disease," Grenier said.

  6. Check for patient assistance programs offered by the drug manufacturer. Companies have income requirements but "literally all the manufacturers have them," Grenier said. "Our pharmacists can help you print the forms and help you fill them out." You can also look up patient assistance programs on NeedyMeds.org.

  7. Pursue a healthy lifestyle. "It's estimated 40 percent of Americans may be walking around with high blood pressure or high cholesterol," Grenier said. Lower your blood pressure and your cholesterol numbers and you won't be spending money on meds for those conditions.

    At the same time, skipping or skimping isn't an option; you could end up spending more on hospital stays than you would have for the prescriptions


Reader Comments
Posted: Mar 10 2014 8:53 PM CST by Carolyn Eby

These are all very good suggestions. It is essential to get all your prescriptions from the same pharmacy and take an accurate medication list to your physician visits. I live in a rural community and drug interactions could occur if patients are required to use mail order or metro pharmacies for maintenance meds and use the local pharmacy for the first fills or emergencies.




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