Enough is enough.
I'm sick and tired of hearing about the ever-increasing price of medications. Last week, five major drug companies hiked the prices of more than 200 drugs. It covered everything from arthritis medications to breast cancer drugs.
In 2019, the average out-of-pocket cost for prescriptions per person was $1,200. And that's the average – it's much higher for those with a condition like cancer and for those 65 and older who may take multiple prescription drugs.
And this latest price hike is no surprise. A bill just passed in Congress to give the government the power to regulate drug prices. It's not expected to pass the Senate, but even that threat is enough to make manufacturers get ahead of the game with increases.
No matter what games politicians play, drug prices have always been high and likely will remain that way.
That's why I urge you to stop trusting the government to take care of you. The only person with your best interest at heart is you.
So today, I want to give you some of my favorite cost-cutting tips for saving money on prescriptions regardless of any government or Big Pharma interference.
Cost Cutter No. 1: Want to know the nearest place to buy the cheapest medications? Be sure to visit www.goodrx.com. This site identifies the cheapest retailers for your prescriptions and includes coupons for extra savings. You can also download a card and have your pharmacist scan it at the register for extra discounts.
Similarly, www.wellrx.com also shows you the cheapest prescriptions, but does it by zip code so you can find the nearest location as well. It should only take a few minutes, and you'll know immediately where the cheapest and closest place is for your medications.
This is my favorite way to save money. I've used it before, and it makes the process quick and easy.
Cost Cutter No. 2: The best-kept secret of the drug business is that you can get almost any prescription drug in the world for free. Most people don't take advantage of these freebie programs, simply because they – and their doctors – don't know the programs exist. Drug companies don't disclose the exact criteria it takes to qualify, but it's certainly easier to receive free drugs from a private company than it is to get assistance from the federal government.
First, you can start out with the complete list of free drug programs on the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) website: www.phrma.org. Or you can call at: (202) 835-3400.
Another great resource is https://medicineassistancetool.org/. Once you go there, click on the button "Get Prescription Help." There, you can enter the drugs you take and fill out a simple form. The website will tell you which drugs are available for financial assistance and from which company.
I highly recommend this site for determining where to find free medication. But if you already know who makes your drug, go directly to that company and see if you qualify. You can look up their websites, but these are often confusing. I'd encourage you to call the company directly.
When you call, ask the operator for the "patient-assistance program." They can help determine your qualifications.
Keep in mind, the companies initiated these programs as assistance for low-income folks who struggle to afford their medications. Each has different criteria for giving free medications. In general, you'll have to verify your income and medical expenses to apply. And not everyone qualifies.
Cost Cutter No. 3: Until recently, insurance companies and the Medicare system determined the prices you paid for drugs of all kinds. Now, you can set the prices you pay just by talking to your doctor.
You can determine with your doctor if the medication you take can be changed to a generic version of the same drug. You see, when a pharmaceutical company develops a drug, it's awarded patents to protect its product for many years. But eventually, those patent protections expire, and other companies are free to compete and develop generic versions of the same medicine.
In many cases, the generic drugs are just as good at treating what ails you – after all, these are just copycat version of the brand-name drugs. And because they are no longer under patent (and therefore other companies can make them), the prices are much lower.
However, it is true that a few drugs have a very narrow "window" of safety and usefulness (the so-called "therapeutic index"). You should discuss this with your doctor, too. If they feel the drugs you take should be brand name drugs because of safety and efficacy (how well the drug works), then by all means, don't switch to the generic.
Many pharmacies will automatically switch you to a generic version if one is available. If not, you may ask to switch. Try pharmacies like Walmart or Walgreens for the best deals – often they'll offer generics for just $4 or $5.
Remember, you are the only person to take control of your own health and wealth. That means you need to stop hoping the government will do something and take matters into your own hands to get better prices on your prescriptions.
Understanding generic drugs is a complex subject. If you'd like to read more, I recommend checking out my special report, "The Four Surprises the U.S. Government and the Pharmaceutical Industry Don't Want You to Know." It's available to subscribers of Retirement Millionaire, here. And if you'd like to try out a subscription and get immediate access to the report, click here.
What We're Reading...
- The Wall Street Journal's take on the new prescription drug bill.
- Something different: Thinking about our friends down under.
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
January 7, 2020