How can patients reduce prescription drug costs at the pharmacy counter?

Answered by Lucia Mueller | Reviewed by a licensed U.S. pharmacist | Posted Julio 18, 2019

Patients pay far more for medication in the United States than anywhere else in the world. Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that prices on patented brand-name drugs were 3.2 to 4.1 times higher than in other countries. The price discrepancies just keep growing due to unabated drug price increases here in the U.S. that generally don’t happen in other countries.

How are Americans dealing with the high cost of prescription drugs at their neighborhood Walgreens, Rite Aid, Walmart, etc.? Well, in order to adhere to their prescriptions, many folks decide to cut costs elsewhere: they buy less groceries, put off paying bills or even delay retirement. That’s not the worst of it: more people than you’d think are rationing or completely skipping their doses, which has devastating effects on American families, including sickness and death.

Of the 1,200 American adults surveyed by Consumer Reports who had experienced a price hike for at least one of their drugs in the past 12 months:

    •    30% did not fill a prescription
    •    20% switched to a supplement, over-the-counter medication or an alternative treatment
    •    18% took an expired medication
    •    16% did not take the drug as scheduled
    •    15% cut pills in half without a doctor’s approval

It’s heartbreaking that any of the above exists in America.

While we at PharmacyChecker advocate for safe personal importation of prescription medication from licensed pharmacies, we believe that patients should compare prices and exhaust options within the U.S. before deciding to order online from international pharmacies.

Prescription Medication Savings Tips for Local Pharmacies

If you are seeking help on how to afford your prescription drugs, here are some recommendations we think you should consider.

1.    Call at least three pharmacies

You may not realize how much prices vary from place to place — even in the same neighborhood. Calling around to compare prices where you live is a good way to ensure that you get the best deal. Pay special attention to your local mom & pop pharmacies. Sometimes patients can actually negotiate prescription prices at these independently-owned pharmacies.

You can also compare discounted drug prices in your area when you search for local medication pricing using the PharmacyChecker Discount Card.

2.    Opt for a 3-month instead of a 30-day supply

If Sam’s Club and Costco has taught us anything, it’s that buying in “bulk” usually works out to be cheaper on most products. So why not medication? If you’re on a maintenance drug, check with your pharmacist to see if the 90-day supply will work out to be less per pill or inhaler than just buying your month’s worth of meds.

Another reason to opt for the larger quantity? Drug prices are constantly changing so there’s no guarantee that the low price you find today will be the same a month from now.

3.    Arm yourself with discount cards and coupons

It’s essential you don’t skip this tip. These days, advertising of pharmacy discount cards and coupons bombards patients. We get that it’s disheartening to have to flash a coupon code for something as essential as medicine. Unfortunately, they’ve very quickly become a necessity in the United States. Health insurance just isn’t cutting it or is plain unaffordable for many Americans.

You can find discounted prices at local U.S. pharmacies by using the PharmacyChecker Discount Card. Simply enter your drug’s name, your zip code and strength of the drug, then click the purple magnifying glass. You will be presented with a list of pharmacies near you and their discounted prices. Click “Get Discount” to download or print your discount card. We recommend keeping it saved on your phone or printing out a copy so you have it handy in your wallet each and every time you travel to the pharmacy.

Pharmacists enter the card information into the pharmacy’s computer system like an insurance card and you end up getting a discounted price for your medication. You can even see what the discounted price will be before you the visit pharmacy so you can budget exactly how much money you need for your prescriptions.  

4. Talk to your doctor and pharmacist

If prescription costs make you nervous, don’t be shy in consulting your local pharmacist or clinician regarding your concerns. They are there to help you in adhering to your drug therapy, which absolutely includes affordability!

SPECIAL TIP: Dr. Shivam Patel recommends avoiding the pharmacy on Mondays if possible. This is the busiest day for most pharmacies, and patients are often left to wait to speak to a pharmacist only to get a rushed response. Pharmacists understand that patients want to save money on their prescriptions and may even have coupons at the counter ready to apply to your prescription bill.

If your health insurance doesn’t cover the drug you need, always ask your doctor or other health care provider if a generic is available. In most circumstances, generic medications approved by the FDA are just as effective as brand-name drugs and often, but not always, much less expensive. 

5. Shop for adequate health insurance

It may seem obvious, but it pays to shop around for health insurance that has prescription coverage for your particular medication. This allows you to pay affordable and subsidized prices at the pharmacy. Discuss options with your employer.
 
If you qualify, federal health insurance programs, Medicaid and Medicare, can aid you in your quest to affording needed medicine and health checkups.

6. See if you apply for patient assistance

For wildly expensive drugs, such as Sovaldi, Ocrevus, and Humira, PharmacyChecker has a search tool for patient assistance programs. The idea is a bit backwards, but pharmaceutical companies offer aid with the cost of medications through these programs. The main barrier patients face is the eligibility requirements. However, read over the information carefully and call for assistance to clarify before you jump to any conclusions that you don’t qualify. People with the lowest incomes are most likely to be eligible, but middle-income Americans should look into them as well. Programs range from covering all to part of your drug cost.  

Last option: Shop online and check out accredited international options

Sometimes the only option to obtain affordable medication is taking the international route. Millions of Americans order their medication online from other countries due to rising drug costs here in the U.S. Our research of 10 popular brand drugs shows that patients can save on average 90% by comparing prices on PharmacyChecker.com.

If you’ve never ordered meds internationally before, it can be daunting. Many patients express concern when shopping online for their prescription medications. As they should! There are dangerous websites that pose as legitimate pharmacies that are out to either sell you counterfeit medications or steal your financial information.

You can avoid these rogue online pharmacies. PharmacyChecker accredits international online pharmacies that process prescription orders filled by licensed pharmacies that require valid prescriptions and sell lawfully-manufactured medicine. Our work protects patient safety for those choosing to order online from a pharmacy in another country.

More Resources for Saving Money at U.S. Pharmacies

Benefitscheckup.org — Provides information on savings programs for the elderly with limited income.
GoodRx.com — Provides discount coupons for use at your local neighborhood pharmacy.
BlinkHealth — Provides service to purchase your medications online before picking up at your pharmacy.

Read more on Ask PharmacyChecker & the PharmacyChecker Blog

Why are drug prices so different at different pharmacies?

Compare Drug Prices: Walgreens Prices 1000% More Expensive

Can U.S. doctors and pharmacies send or transfer prescriptions to Canada?

Do you have a question or concern about cutting your prescription costs? When it comes to savings at U.S. pharmacy counters or abroad, we’re here to help.

Comment below or ask a question by logging in to My PharmacyChecker.

Updated Noviembre 18, 2019

Compare drug prices among reputable online pharmacies

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