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Keep the Dollars in Your Pocket - Medication Costs

Posted Oct 19 2008 8:15pm
In this post, we will discuss how to save healthcare costs on your medications.  Since it is the medication costs that are usually the portion of your care that is most likely to be an ongoing expense, we will start there.  Many times people with chronic conditions can be on 6 or more medications.  Due to the costs, there are often times when there is a decision between purchasing medications and putting food on the table.  I have seen it many times that the medications will not be taken, the condition becomes worse and the person ends up in the hospital.Only recently have we begun to see ways to save on your healthcare costs. Most of the literature that suggests ways to lower you medication costs, generally cover the topic fairly well.  However, I do usually have one or two items to add. 1. Generic drugs: When your doctor gives you a prescription, always ask to be sure there is a generic equivalent available.  These are the same chemical structure, only much cheaper.  Most meds that have been on the market for a while will have a generic counterpart.  Beware of new medications on the market, they will usually be very pricey and no generic will be available.2. Home delivery: For medications taken regularly, you can usually access your health plan's pharmacy benefit in which it can be delivered right to your front door.  Besides saving on gas to frequent your favorite drug store, you can usually get three months at a time.  To make it easier to switch to home delivery, call your doctor's office and ask the fax a prescription directly to home delivery pharmacy.  They can then be scheduled on a regular basis so you will no longer have to remember to order your refill.3.  Drug List: Each health plan will usually have a list of drugs that are categorized into groups of which designate how much you will pay or how much the health plan will cover.  It may be a difference in co-payment or some will not be covered at all.  Take the list with you to your doctor and make sure any medications ordered are in the best category for your benefit i.e. your lowest cost.4. Non-prescription drugs: Many medications that were once only available by prescription are now available without.  They are usually less expensive than the same kind of drug by prescription.  An example is the heartburn drug Prilosec.  When purchased with a prescription it costs about $116 per month.  The cost of a similar amount of the over-the-counter version is about $25.  Be sure and check with your doctor if this could work for you.5: Samples:   One of the big ways that drug companies advertise their new drugs is directly with the physicians. In most doctor offices, there are frequent visits from drug salesmen.  Most of the time, they will leave samples so the doctor can "try the drug" to see if it serves the purpose.  Really, it keeps their drug in “top-of-mind” for prescribing.   In some doctor offices, I have seen extensive amounts of sample medication...actual sample closets.  If the doctor gives you a new prescription and there is not a generic ask if they have samples.   I have been able to get a patient’s entire set of medications from samples.   Unfortunately, with the economic situation of the past few years, even the drug companies have felt the pinch so it is somewhat more difficult to obtain samples in that quantity.6. Different Drug: One of the things I usually include in suggestions for cost savings is to ask if there is a different medication that will accomplish the same thing, but be less expensive.   There are times when the physician may not think about the cost of the drug.   They will order the latest and greatest, or the one that the drug salesman recently spoke with them about.   Whatever the reason, it does happen.   Always ask if there is a less expensive drug.   You can also talk to your pharmacist about alternative medications.   Then your doctor will need to change your prescription.Hopefully these have been helpful tips to help you reduce your healthcare costs.   Until next time, stay happy and
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