Tips to help patients save money on prescriptions

As a primary care doc, I have compiled several tips to help patients save money on prescriptions.

All the prices quoted in the following examples are from Costco.

1. Patient assistance programs (PAP). Try to get free meds from the pharmaceutical company that manufactures your medication. Most of the time this service is only offered if there is not a generic available for your medicine. I heartily recommend you check out NeedyMeds.org and see if a Patient Assistance Program (aka PAP) exists for your medication.

I like the NeedyMeds.org site a lot because, to my knowledge, it is not sponsored by Big Pharma, unlike some of the others. Of course, this means the site is not as slick-looking as AstraZeneca’s RxAssist.org or Merck’s PatientAssistance.com. I also like that NeedyMeds.org is more of a “one-stop shopping” experience, in that all the drug company PAP application forms are available at one site.

2. Pill splitting. No joke — this trick can save you  big money if you are willing to put up with the minor inconvenience of cutting your meds. The concept is that you buy a double strength dose of the medicine that you normally take, and then cut the pill in half to provide two doses for (roughly) the price of one.

Lipitor 20 mg, #30 tabs — $122/month OR

Lipitor 40 mg, #30 tabs –  $123 (but lasts for TWO months because you are taking a 1/2 tab per day) — $62/mo

But you first have to ask your doctor or pharmacist if it is safe to cut your medications. We also offer info on whether a pill is splittable on LesliesList.org Prescription Price Comparison search results’ pages. Usually coated pills, controlled-release pills and capsules may not be cut. Also, in order to cut pills as accurately as possible, I recommend that you purchase a pill-cutter from the pharmacy. Last time I asked they cost about two dollars and can be reused hundreds of times.

3. Mail-order pharmacies. Consider this option only if you have faith in your local mail service. There are some reader recommendations for mail-order pharmacies in the Community Section of LesliesList.org, but I cannot personally vouch for them, as I have no experience with them. If you decide to go this route there are quite a few “price-scraper” websites that do comparison pricing of online pharmacies for you. A couple of notables: PharmacyChecker.com and Pillbot.com.

Leslie Ramirez is an internal medicine physician and founder of Leslie’s List, which provides information that enables all patients, but especially the uninsured and underinsured, to find more affordable medications and health care services.

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