The cost of medications in America has gone crazy...
In January, the price of more than 800 prescription drugs rose an average of 5.1%, according to the GoodRx List Price Index.
While it's important to note that these price increases are on a drug's list price – the full price a company sells the medication for – this price often is passed down to consumers through things like higher insurance premiums. And if you're uninsured, the list price is what you'll have to fork out.
Last year, Americans spent about $1,200 on average on prescriptions. But as inflation continues to run wild, it's likely we'll see even greater spending this year.
If you need prescription medications, you don't have a lot of options if the drug companies decide to raise prices. But there are ways to cut costs.
Today, I'm going to show you three ways to save on your prescriptions...
Cost Cutter No. 1: Want to know the nearest place to buy the cheapest medications? Be sure to visit 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. However, you can't use GoodRx if you use Medicare or Medicaid.
Similarly, 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: phrma.org. Or you can call 202-835-3400.
Another great resource is medicineassistancetool.org. 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 $7.50.
Remember, you are the only person who can 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.
What We're Reading...
- How online pharmacies can help you save on prescriptions.
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Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
April 21, 2022