How to Save on Prescriptions

Prescription-pricing.jpg

Your doctor writes a prescription, you bring it to the pharmacy, and YIKES - that prescription costs so much more than you expected.

While we have touched on how to get cheaper prescriptions in some of our other articles, we want to give you an entire post devoted to prescriptions, including their history and how to make sure you are getting the best prices. Let’s dive in, shall we?

A Brief History of Pharmacies and Prescriptions

Back in the day, pharmacists set their own prices based on what they thought the costs should be. As the healthcare industry has grown, with evidence-based medicine and the introduction of health insurance, so has the way prescription prices are set. 

Enter the pharmacy benefit manager (PBM). Originally, PBMs were created to help set prices so that pharmacies could be paid immediately by the insurance, however, their role has evolved. According to the American Pharmacists Association, "PBMs are primarily responsible for developing and maintaining the formulary [list of medicines], contracting with pharmacies, negotiating discounts and rebates with drug manufacturers, and processing and paying prescription drug claims."

PBMs help health insurance companies (the PBM’s customers) negotiate with drug manufacturers for lower prices. They are able to do this because most prescription drugs on the market have multiple versions - all of which have similar effects. A PBM negotiates with various drug companies about which will be the preferred brand for a specific drug, locking in a discount for the insurance company. 

As consumers we see the discount in the price of the medication. A prescription at one pharmacy with one type of insurance might be different than the prices at another pharmacy with a different insurer. For a more thorough explanation of prescription drug pricing and PBMs, we recommend listening to this podcast (it’s where we pulled some of our info from).

Now that you understand a little more about how prices get set, let’s discuss how you can make sure you are getting the most bang for your buck. 

Ways to Save on Prescriptions

Generic Prescriptions: 

We’ve said it before, and we will say it again, generic generic, generic. Generic prescriptions typically are a lot less expensive than brand name prescriptions. When filling a prescription, ask your doctor about generic options. 

Grocery Store Generic Programs: 

Several grocery store pharmacies offer some generic drugs FREE or at a very low cost (often less than $5 for a 30 day supply). Some of the stores offering these programs are:

Medicine Assistant Tool Partnership for Prescription Assistance:

According to their website, it is a search engine that helps, “patients, caregivers and health care providers learn more about the resources available through the various biopharmaceutical industry programs.” It can help you find more information on prescriptions and pricing. It is not a patient assistant program, but rather helps you find patient assistant resources offered by the biopharmaceutical industry.

Manufacturer Coupons

Many drug manufacturers have coupons on their website. All you have to do is Google search “[Drug Name] Manufacturer Coupon” and make sure you are looking at the manufacturer's website (not some sketchy third party site!)

90 Day Mail Order Prescriptions:

The 90 day option through your insurance company’s mail order program is likely cheaper than paying for a monthly refill, and they ship it to your door! Call your insurance company to ask about this option.

Prescription Coupons from Your Doctor:

If your doctor is refilling a prescription or filling a new one, ask him/her to see if they have any coupons that can help bring the cost down. 

GoodRX

Image from    GoodRx

Image from GoodRx

  • What it is: GoodRX shows you the prices of a prescription at various pharmacies in your area, on top of that they also offer FREE coupons to get discounts on the drugs. According to their website, “GoodRx helps consumers save up to 80% on their medications by delivering prices and available discounts at nearly every pharmacy in the U.S.”

  • How it works: Go to their website or download there app, type in the prescription you are looking for along with your location, and hit search. 

  • Cost to me: Free

  • What else to know: GoodRX goes beyond offering you prices for your local pharmacy and coupons. They also give you alternative ways to save, including mail order options. I.e. we typed in a generic birth control and it referred us to hers and NURX, both online birth control services, information on how to fill a 90-day prescription and save, and offers you a link to other, similar prescriptions that you might be able to get at a lower cost. 

WebMDRx:

Image from    WebMDRx

Image from WebMDRx

  • What it is: A very similar model to GoodRX, WebMDRx lets you compare free of charge prescription pricing in your area and get free coupons to save money on those prescriptions. 

  • How it works: Go to their website or download there app, type in the prescription you are looking for along with your location, and hit search. 

  • Cost to me: Free

  • What else to know: If the coupon for WebMDRx makes the cost of the prescription lower than your insurance copay you can ask the pharmacist to run your prescription using the coupon instead of through your insurance.You can also ask for some prescriptions to be run through your insurance card and some to be run through the WebMDRx coupon depending on the pricing. #pricehacking!

Have any other ways to save on prescriptions? Comment below!