How Can I Decrease My Medication Costs?
Steven Brown, MD, is a family physician at the Banner Good Samaritan Family Medicine Center in Phoenix.
Question: I take a lot of medicines. How can I decrease my medication costs?
Answer: There are several ways to decrease your medication costs. The first step that I’d recommend is a “brown bag” visit with your primary care physician. Bring all of your medications to the appointment and only discuss medication issues during that visit. Take charge of your medications. Understand what each medicine is used for and how it helps you. If you are having trouble paying for your medicines, tell your doctor.
Some questions you may want to ask your doctor are: “Do I really need this medicine?” and, “What are the chances this medicine will help me?” You may be able to eliminate some medications based on the conversation with your doctor.
Don’t be tempted by a fancy “new” medicine unless there is a clearly demonstrated benefit. “New” does not mean “better.” Often, you are better off letting a medicine be on the market for a few years before you take it to assure safety.
Another important thing to note when considering lowering your medicine costs is the use of sample medications. Don’t ask for them and don’t take them, if offered. Samples are usually for the most expensive new medicines, and can lead to increased prescription costs over time.
Generic medicines should always be considered. They are a reliable alternative to brand name prescriptions. Brands often cost a great deal more , are not covered under insurance, or have larger co-pays and provide no benefit over time-tested generic drugs Don’t panic if your prescription doesn’t have a generic. Most new medicines don’t. Talk to your doctor about whether or not there is a [generic] equivalent medicine in a different class that does the same thing. Also, check the $4 medication lists of your local store or pharmacy (e.g. Walgreens, Target, Wal-Mart), and ask your doctor if those medicines are a good alternative.
Reviewed May 2010