6 Ways to Save Time & Money at the Pharmacy

Written by Shivam Patel, PharmD, BSPS, RPh | Posted July 23, 2020 | Updated December 08, 2020

Waiting in a long line at the pharmacy only to find out insurance doesn’t cover your prescription can have the best of us pulling our hair out. Or perhaps the pharmacy doesn’t accept a discount coupon or allot the proper time to consider your questions. As a pharmacist, I want to help you avoid such situations. I’ve identified six ways to help you save time, money, and sanity next time you're at the pharmacy.

#1 - Call ahead and talk to us (nicely please!)

Part of my oath, as a pharmacist, includes the following:

“I will apply my knowledge, experience, and skills to the best of my ability to assure optimal outcomes for my patients”

As in any customer service situation, when you establish positive rapport with your pharmacist, they’ll be more likely to help you save money on your prescription. Pharmacists deal with hundreds of insurance billing issues per day, so we’re more than aware of the savings options out there. The key to avoiding a surprise pharmacy bill headache is to call the pharmacy ahead of time so you know exactly what to expect regarding refills dates and cost.

Pharmacist TIP: Avoid the pharmacy on Mondays if you can: It’s usually our busiest day and can get quite chaotic, which inevitably leads to rushed experience. Pharmacies are most slammed around noontime and five o’clock when providers choose to send over their prescriptions for the day all at once.

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#2 - Buy Generic over Brand when possible

In the U.S., whether you have health insurance or not, your overall cost is almost always cheaper when you go generic over a brand name medication. Most U.S. pharmacies dispense the generic by default, if available, unless your brand name prescription reads “Dispensed as Written.” So even if the prescription states the brand name on it, you’ll usually just pay for the generic.


Generic medications approved by the FDA and other regulatory authorities that mandate good manufacturing practices are generally just as effective as brand name drugs. However, there are exceptions so in the event that you encounter problems, inform your provider immediately.

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#3 - Go with a 3-month supply

Buying in bulk at big box stores like Sam’s Club and BJ’s is a surefire way to save money. The same principle works for prescription drugs. If you are prescribed maintenance medications, speak with your pharmacist about cutting costs by switching to a 90-day or a 3-month supply. Additionally, you may be able to save more money and time if you get your maintenance meds mailed to your home.


Stay on top of when your prescriptions are due for refill. Sure, your pharmacist will often give you a reminder call, but it can certainly save time if you let your provider know in advance. Most insurance plans allow prescriptions to be refilled two days before you run out. However, for controlled medication, pharmacies have different refill policies. Speak with your pharmacist immediately if you are running out of your controlled prescription drug sooner than usual.


More on that here: Can a pharmacy fill a prescription early?

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4 - Shop around!

Prescription drug prices vary from pharmacy to pharmacy, so don't balk at shopping around. The price at one pharmacy can be literally 10 times more than another for the same drug! If it comes down to moving all your prescriptions to another pharmacy, consider a local mom-and-pop independent pharmacy as you may be able to negotiate your drug prices-- Quite a different ballgame compared to big corporation chain pharmacies. You can compare discounted drug prices at pharmacies where you live using the U.S. Prescription Discount Card.

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5 - Use Discount Cards, Coupons, and Patient Assistance

If you don't have health insurance (or even sometimes if you do) you can save money on your prescriptions by using drug discount cards or coupons. Pharmacists usually apply a discount code automatically when patients don't have insurance, but bringing your own coupons to the table is always a good idea.


PharmacyChecker helps patients find discounted prices at local U.S. pharmacies with the U.S. Prescription Discount Card.

  • Once you click the link, enter your drug name and strength, followed by your zip code then click on the purple magnifying glass icon.
  • You will then see a list of pharmacies in your area with their discounted prices.
  • Click “Get Discount” to download or print your discount card.

SAVINGS TIP: Save the discount card in your phone or keep a printed version in your wallet to have it readily retrievable during your next pharmacy visit.

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6 - When you can’t afford medications locally, consider taking your search online and international

Still having trouble affording medication at your local pharmacy? You’re not alone. If this is you, it’s worth considering joining the millions of Americans who take advantage of lower international prices online. You can save on average 90% (based on 10 popular brand drugs) by comparing prices among Canadian and international online pharmacies accredited by PharmacyChecker.


If you are new to ordering medication online, you might feel nervous about taking the plunge. This is perfectly understandable! The good news is that you can avoid bogus websites by only shopping at those verified by PharmacyChecker. PharmacyChecker accredits international online pharmacies that are licensed and sell lawfully-manufactured medicine. We work to protect patient safety and provide peace of mind when choosing to order medication internationally.

Compare Prices Internationally Today

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Compare drug prices among reputable online pharmacies

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