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Health Reform 101

with Lisa Zamosky

WebMD helps readers understand their health insurance and the new health care reform law. The Affordable Care Act is bringing sweeping changes to American health care. Lisa Zamosky is here to help you navigate the health care maze and understand how these changes affect you.


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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Five Ways to Save on Prescription Drugs

By Lisa Zamosky

Prescription Medications

According to a recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of five American families struggles to pay its medical bills, which include the cost of prescription drugs.

Savvy shopping can help you save money on medications. Here are five tips for cutting your prescription drug bills.

1. Pay attention to your formulary

If you have health insurance, it’s important to check whether the medications you need are on your carrier’s formulary — the list of drugs it covers. The list can change from year-to-year so don’t assume that if your medication was covered in the past it still will be.

To prevent sticker shock at the pharmacy, take the list with you on your next visit to the doctor so that, if possible, he or she can prescribe a medication that will be less costly for you.

2. Go Generic

Many top-selling prescription drugs are losing their patents over the next few years. In time, that means generics will make their way to the market and compete for your business.

The difference in cost between generic and name-brand medications can be quite significant. Talk with your doctor about whether the medication you need is available in generic form and if he or she believes it could be as effective for you as the name-brand drug.

3. Shop Around

Prescription drug prices vary widely among pharmacies. If you purchase your medications locally, it pays to compare costs at a few local drugstores.

Large discount stores, such as Wal-Mart and Target, for example, sell a 30-day supply of generic prescriptions for just $4 (the program doesn’t apply to brand-name drugs), and a 90-day supply for roughly $10.00. Sometimes just mentioning that another pharmacy nearby is offering the same drug at a lower cost may encourage your favorite drugstore to match the price and keep your business.

It’s also a good idea to see if getting your medication by mail-order will lower your costs.

4. Go Online

According to Consumer Reports, buying prescription drugs through online pharmacies can save consumers 35% or more off the regular price of medications.

As I discussed in this previous post, however, it’s very important to be cautious about where you shop because online scams are common. Look for websites that are verified by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, which issues a Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site (VIPPS) to websites that have been vetted.

Here are some well-known sites with the VIPPS seal:

5. Ask for Help

Many of the big pharmaceutical companies offer programs to make the medications they manufacture available to patients at either no or low cost. Sites such as, and can help you to locate programs.

Have you found ways to cut down on your medication costs? If so, share your experience.

Photo: iStockphoto

Posted by: Lisa Zamosky at 8:35 am


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