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How to buy drugs in 2019.

Prescription drugs. Not recreational drugs. Obviously.

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The first thing you need to know is this: you do NOT need to use your insurance plan’s medication benefit. Frankly, it may not be much of a benefit. The second thing you need to know is this: buying your medication is like buying anything else. Shop around. Please. Look for deals. Use coupons. Compare prices.

Recently, I had a post about one of the largest expenses in healthcare: insurance. Another large expense is that of medications. The cost of one medication for one week to treat one infection can be manageable. The cost of six medications every month for six chronic lifelong illnesses is unbelievably overwhelming. There may be ways to save even a little bit of money when it comes to medications… and let’s face it, any amount saved is worth it. The following are some tips I share with patients ALL THE TIME. There may be some more tips that are not listed. Please share if you have others.

  1. Free medications or $4/$7.50 Generics

Check with local retailers to see if they may be offering free medications or $4/$7.50 generic programs. Why would they do this? Well, because if you are anything like me, you can’t just walk into a store like Publix or Target and just buy the ONE thing you intended to buy. Nope, you walk in with one item on your list and walk out with seventeen other items. Score for the retailer! In our area in Jacksonville for example, the pharmacy in Publix grocery stores offer the blood pressure medications amlodipine and lisinopril for free, the diabetes medication metformin for free, and the antibiotics amoxicillin, ampicillin, sulfamethoxazole-trimethoprim, and penicillin VK for free. There are many more other medications on the Publix $7.50 list. Other retailers offering similar programs include: H-E-B, Rite-Aid, Target, Walmart, and Winn-Dixie. Sometimes a patient will come to an appointment prepared with a printed list which can often help guide my medication decisions.

  1. Use an app like GoodRx (WellRx, BlinkHealth)

I use the mobile app Good Rx at least once during every clinic day to help a patient find which local pharmacy may have his/her prescription for the lowest cost. GoodRx (and other similar sites such as Wellrx) are free mobile apps or websites that allow you to enter your prescription information (name–generic or brand, dosage, quantity) and your location. The site will then perform a search of the pharmacies in the immediate area and list the prices of your prescription and whether there is a discount code or coupon code associated with the quoted price. Sometimes the prices vary drastically between pharmacies that are within a short walking distance of each other. Look at the example below. I looked up the cost of a one month supply of a generic anti- inflammatory medicine celecoxib. There is almost a $40 difference in the cost of the same medication between two pharmacies 0.2 miles apart from one another. Once you choose the price and the pharmacy, either print the coupon or show the coupon from your mobile app to the pharmacist to get the price. (*Tip: tell them you are using a GoodRx coupon before they ring up the prescription because they have to enter in the codes for everything to work. If you tell them afterwards, they have to re-ring it up and then get very cranky. I speak from experience). Participating pharmacies are contractually obligated to accept GoodRx coupon prices.

GoodRx mobile app

Blink Health works a little bit differently. With Blink Health, you will have your provider send your prescription to one of many participating pharmacies that offers much lower prices for medications (or you may bring the paper prescription to that pharmacy). You pay for the prescription through the blink health website and then you receive a proof of purchase via email or text which you present to the pharmacist to pick up your prescription.

  1. Pharmaceutical manufacturer discount cards

This really only applies to brand name medications. If you are taking a brand name medication that does not have a reasonable generic equivalent, you will want to use your pharmacy benefit from your insurance plan because the full retail price of most brand name medications can be exorbitant. Even still, with your insurance benefit the cost to you still may be high depending on which tier the medication falls (briefly, tier 1 medications are least expensive and tier 4 medications are most expensive). This is where manufacturer discount cards may help decrease the cost of the out of pocket expense the medication would be for you at the pharmacy after your insurance benefit has been applied. You can find these on the drug’s website and often your physician has them in the office.

  1. Shop at Costco or Sam’s Club

You do not have to be a member of either to use the pharmacy at these warehouse clubs. If you show your prescriptions at the entrance and let them know you are there to use the pharmacy, in you go. Easy peasy. And ow you have access to some of the least expensive medications in your area.

There are many other ways that I have found to help patients save money on medications like patient assistance programs, splitting pills, and mail order pharmacies. I would really encourage you to talk to your medical providers and let them know your concerns. So often we forget that it adds up and that patients can walk away from pharmacies after paying hundreds of dollars each time. I’ve had some patients only pay for a few of their medications one month and then return for the others the next month because of cost… and not tell me. I don’t want that. We don’t want that, so please say something to your doctor or provider if that’s you. I have spent an entire appointment with a patient and the Goodrx app looking up every medication on her list and every pharmacy in our area for the best prices. I changed four medications and ultimately sent her to three different pharmacies in order to drastically decrease her monthly expense but it is what we had to do to make it work. We will do that. We should do that. Just ask.

Lion, Acrylic. Painted after we watched The Lion King at the movies 😆

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