Health experts offer tips for saving on prescription drug costs

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Until Congress acts to lower prices, here’s what you can do to save

Congress is working on legislation to lower prescription drug prices but almost everyone involved in the process agrees it will take time. In the meantime, are there things consumers can do now that might reduce what they pay for prescription drugs?

The experts we consulted said there are. Chris Blackley, CEO of Prescryptive Health, says some of the money-saving tips are not widely known - such as paying cash and not using your health insurance.

“Many consumers now know that they can pay with cash instead of using their insurance to save, but some of those programs cost their local pharmacy,” Blackley told ConsumerAffairs. “So, it’s important to look into which ones are good for patients but not forcing the pharmacy to sell at a loss.”

Paying cash, and bypassing your high-deductible health insurance, can in fact save money. When you pay the cash price for a prescription you can avoid some of the extra fees and middlemen add-ons that can cause price hikes when you pay with insurance. These added costs can run as high as $30 per prescription, according to a recent analysis by Kaiser Health News.

Go with generics

Blackley says another way to save on prescriptions is to find a generic version of a name-brand drug. It’s as simple as asking the pharmacist. If there is a cheaper alternative, just ask your doctor to change your prescription.

There are also savings programs provided by pharmaceutical manufacturers or charitable foundations that will help those who don’t have insurance or can’t afford their medications. Again, your pharmacist may have information about these programs.

“Technology exists today that can help patients shop for prescription drugs, identify affordable alternatives, and find the best pharmacy for them, based on location, price, and more.” Blackley said.

Shop around

Jayne Hornung, the chief clinical officer at MMIT, a global pharma intelligence provider, says another simple step is to shop around. She notes that prescription drug prices can vary by several dollars per prescription.

“See if there are discount programs available,” Hornung told us. “Check manufacturer websites for brand discounts. GoodRX and RxSaver offer discounts on prescriptions specifically for people without prescription coverage.”

Hornung says buying from a reputable online pharmacy can also save money. She says that some mail-order pharmacies will offer a 90-day supply of the drug for the price of a 30-day supply.

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