If you are struggling to afford your prescriptions at the pharmacy, you are not alone. The high cost of prescription medications has been an ongoing concern across the United States for many years. One reason for the high costs of medications is pharmaceutical companies in the United States are allowed to set their own prices for medications.
There are no guidelines or regulations preventing companies from charging higher amounts for the medication. Without these regulations, pharmaceutical companies can sell those products at high prices without losing customers.
Another problem is drug companies are allowed to patent their new drugs for as long as 20 years in the United States. When a company produces a patented drug, complete control over the distribution of the drug is maintained by the company. There are no equivalent medications available. Therefore, no market competition exists to drive the costs of patented drugs down. However, there are many ways you can save at the pharmacy when purchasing medications before or after a patent expires. Some of those pharmacy savings options are outlined below.
Prescription Savings Applications
Shopping around for prescription discounts is a concept you may not immediately think of, especially if you have insurance. However, your medication copayments through your insurance company may be quite high. Often, it is possible to find better deals on medications by shopping around. Additionally, some medications may not be covered by your insurance at all. In such cases, comparison shopping is essential. Comparison shopping is necessary because pharmacies can often charge vastly different prices for the same medications. Such differences can occur because some pharmacies purchase medications from the manufacturers. Others purchase medications from third parties. In addition, pharmacy owners, like manufacturers, are able to set any prices they wish for the medications they sell.
In past years, shopping around for the best deals at your local pharmacies was nearly impossible. The only options you had were to call or go to each pharmacy in person and ask about medication costs. Modern technology has eliminated the need for such frustrating tasks through the creation of prescription savings applications. Prescription savings apps are programs you can install on your cellphone to help you save money on prescription medications.
Prescription savings apps compile data on the prices charged in local pharmacies and sometimes include data about online prescription medication sellers. In addition to comparing prices between pharmacies for specific medications, these apps can help you by:
- Notifying you of generic alternatives to expensive medications.
- Providing access to visual pill charts so you can verify you are receiving the right medication.
- Allowing you to search for appropriate medications by inputting the names of specific conditions you have.
- Helping you locate local pharmacies.
Pharmacy Discount Cards
Another major source of savings at the pharmacy you can take advantage of is the use of pharmacy discount cards. They are special cards offering you discounts on medications and occasionally other perks. Many of them function in much the same way as coupons. When you use them, the specified amounts are deducted from your medication purchases. Pharmacy discount cards can be plastic and somewhat resemble credit cards. Some discount cards are available as paper printouts or on your cellphone as a digital barcode. Types of discount cards include:
- Cards offered in conjunction with popular national organization memberships, such as AARP.
- State medication discount cards offered by companies that work with pharmacies to provide discounts.
- Discount cards offered by nonprofit organizations and other independent companies.
- Pharmacy franchise reward cards that provide benefits for loyal customers who shop at the same store frequently.
Pharmacy franchise reward cards may be of particular interest to you if you tend to visit the same pharmacy all the time. They will often save you money on prescriptions, as well as other purchases made in chain stores associated with the cards in question. Other discount cards can be used in a wide variety of locations and are not franchise-specific.
Legitimate pharmacy discount cards are usually free to obtain and free to use. Therefore, it will be easy, free and beneficial for you to obtain several cards from different sources. Multiple cards may be particularly useful if you take several medications on an ongoing basis. Pharmacy discount cards each offer their own sets of discounts on medications. They do not cover the purchases of the same drugs or offer the same discounts for a specific drug. By combining card usage and purchasing your medications in separate transactions, you will get the best possible deals from your card membership programs.
Purchasing Generic Medications
Another simple way to save money at the pharmacy is by purchasing generic medications. You may have heard generic medications can save you money already, but safety concerns may have stopped you from buying generic drugs. If so, you should know all medications manufactured in the United States must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Therefore, they are safe to use. A generic medication, according to the FDA, is one that is produced to be equal to its name-brand counterpart. Generic drugs are assessed by the FDA in multiple ways. Assessed characteristics include:
- Administration technique.
- Safety level.
To be approved by the FDA for use, generic medications must meet all of those standards. They must also contain the same active ingredients as their name-brand counterparts. Generic forms of all medications are not available because companies cannot produce generic medications until patents on the original medications expire or are negated for legal reasons. However, generic forms of many medications do currently exist, and they tend to be far cheaper than name-brand medications. Competition between companies is one of the largest factors contributing to the lower prices of generic medications, which can save you as much as 85 percent on prescriptions, according to the FDA. Not all doctors prescribe generic medications unless they are asked. The same is true of pharmacists. Also, some insurance companies cover the costs of name-brand medications but not their generic equivalents. Therefore, if you are interested in taking generic medications to save money, you must ask your doctor if generic medications are available, if he or she does not volunteer such information. You must also take the time to compare the costs of name-brand and generic versions of each medication. When doing so, comparing discounts you can receive through your insurance company, using discount cards and using savings apps before buying your medications is essential.