How Can I Save Money on My Prescriptions?

Senior citizen female holding bottles of prescription medicine sitting in a wheelchair.
DNY59 / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Americans are struggling to cover the costs of prescription drugs. According to a survey published in October by Healthcare.com, four in 10 prescription medication users fear that prescription drug spending in their household could lead to bankruptcy or debt; three in 10 say their drug spending increased in the past year and three in 10 also say they had difficulty paying for food or housing in the past year as a direct result of the high cost of prescription meds. 

See: Prescriptions Too Costly? Mark Cuban’s Online Pharmacy Has Saved Patients $1,000 a Month
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Fortunately, there are tried and true ways to save on prescription medications. Here’s a look at what consumers can do to cut down that soaring pharmacy bill.

Use GoodRx Coupons  

GoodRx isn’t just a bunch of hype, the service actually works. Using their coupons at a walk-in pharmacy can actually save you a bundle – as much as 80% off the retail price of generic prescription drugs. Check to see which pharmacies accept GoodRx coupons before heading over, and, if you routinely get prescription drugs, consider joining the GoodRx Gold program, which lets you access 1,000+ medications for less than $10 per prescription. For $20 a month a member can add five additional members, including pets. Additionally, Primary Gold account holders can get access to telehealth doctor visits for $19. 

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Go Generic 

Buying generic foods over brand name items is a sure way to save money. But this method won’t only save you at the drugstore — it also saves you at the grocery store. If you bring in a script for a brand name drug, ask the pharmacist if there isn’t a generic version available. Generic drugs cost anywhere from 20% to 70% less than their brand-name alternatives, according to estimates from the Food and Drug Administration. If the pharmacist doesn’t know, call your insurance company and/or talk with your healthcare provider. 

Scope Out Savings Programs at Big Chain Pharmacies 

If you’re comfortable shopping at a big-chain pharmacy, consider signing up for the prescription savings programs, if they offer them. Walgreens, for instance, has its Prescription Savings Club Program which lets consumers fill prescriptions for hundreds of generic drugs for $7.50, $10, or $15 for a 30-day supply, or $15, $20, or $30 for a 90-day supply. It costs $20 a year for an individual and $35 for a family. Insurance isn’t needed to enroll.  

Try Mark Cuban’s Cost Plus Drugs

Billionaire Mark Cuban recently launched Cost Plus Drugs, an online pharmacy startup that peddles more than 800 generic drugs with remarkable discounts. A company press release noted that a supply of the drug Imatinib, which helps fight leukemia, costs $47 per month at Cost Plus Drugs. At a normal pharmacy that same drug (and same supply) goes for $9,657. Prices for Cost Plus Drugs shoppers are the same regardless of whether they have health insurance.

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Check Out NeedyMeds 

The website NeedyMeds is a website teeming with information on prescription drug medications and ways to save. Users can search for medications by diagnosis or condition, and from there review different drug manufacturer savings programs. They can also search for coupons and rebates.  

Ask Your Local Drugstore for A Lower Price 

Unlike the big chain pharmacies of the world (think CVS and Walgreens), local independent pharmacies don’t necessarily have set cash prices they have to abide by. They might just be able to offer you a discount on the medication to, at the very least, beat the price being touted by the neighboring RiteAid or Walmart. Just ask; the worst they can do is say no.

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Consider RXAssist, If Uninsured 

Another great site to check out is RXAssist, which offers a searchable database to discover drugs and their pricing at various pharmacies, so you can find the cheapest option. Note though that to use RxAssist, you must not have health insurance, be a U.S. citizen and meet certain income requirements.  

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About the Author

Nicole Spector is a writer, editor, and author based in Los Angeles by way of Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Vogue, the Atlantic, Vice, and The New Yorker. She's a frequent contributor to NBC News and Publishers Weekly. Her 2013 debut novel, "Fifty Shades of Dorian Gray" received laudatory blurbs from the likes of Fred Armisen and Ken Kalfus, and was published in the US, UK, France, and Russia — though nobody knows whatever happened with the Russian edition! She has an affinity for Twitter.
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