10 techniques that could save you thousands on your prescription (Part 1)

Posted on April 2, 2014


Lets face it, despite the 7 million people who have signed up for the Affordable Care Act, there are still a host of people out there without insurance. And even for those who do have insurance, there is sometimes an overwhelming struggle to cover the cost of co-pays for health visits and medications. Therefore with a few years of community pharmacy experience under my belt, I have been able to put together some “tricks of the trade” that could help patients regain some control over their prescription spending:

1. Preventive care: Of course the best way to save money on a prescription is not to need one in the first place. Take good care of yourself, exercise, maintain a healthy diet, quit smoking and basically do not engage in activities that may compromise your health.

2. Go generic (if available): Generics for the most part are usually way cheaper than their brand counterparts. According to the Congressional Budget Office, generic drugs save consumers an estimated $8 to $10 billion a year at retail pharmacies. They may be a different color and shape from the brand name, but the FDA requires generics drugs to have the same dosage, safety, strength, quality, mechanism of action etc. To find out if there is a generic equivalent for your brand-name drug, use Drugs@FDA.

Furthermore, several grocery chains such as WalMart, Kroger, HEB, Ingles etc have low dollar generic lists that can save you loads of money per year. Take these lists with you to your next doctor visit, and ask if your prescription could be chosen from the generic list.


3. Go half: If a drug is FDA approved for splitting and you can get your doctor to double your normal dose, you may be able to split the pills and get 2x the supply of your monthly medicine. Usually there is a “score” (or a split) down the middle of medications that may be split. However, a score does not automatically make a drug safe to split, so please consult with your doctor or pharmacist first. If you do get a go ahead, the best way to achieve a clean equal split is to use a pill splitter. Some characteristics that disqualify a medication from safe splitting include extended release formulations, capsules, and small uneven shapes.

4. Team up: Drug companies are introducing more combination medications i.e. two drugs in one pill which are designed to save you time and money. Diabetes patients may benefit the more from this technique since most of their medications are prescribed along with Metformin e.g Actos, Januvia, Avandia (Acto-Plus, Janumet, Avanda-Met. These patients could saving by having just one co-pay instead of two. This also goes for some blood pressure medications such as Lisinopril-HCTZ, Bisoprolol-HCTZ, Atenolol-Chlorthalidone etc. However, be careful because some combination medications that are “Brand” only may have the opposite effect by costing you more money.

5. Kill two birds with one stone: If you are being treated for multiple problems, a single pill may be able to help more than one condition. This approach may require a bit of research from your primary care physicians, and if you have prescriptions from other doctors (such as specialists) this may require some coordination. Some examples are the drug Bupropion which is primarily used as an antidepressant, but is also approved for smoking cessation. Muscle relaxants are also another example; they can be used for back pain/muscle spasms and can also be used to help you sleep better.

What do you think about these cost saving techniques? Have you (not) tried any of them? Why (not)? How much have you saved so far? Also, don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss the second part of this post!