04/02/2015 04:09 pm ET | Updated Jun 02, 2015

How to Save Money on Your Prescription Drugs


According to The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, Americans spent over $270 billion on prescription drugs in 2013.

The reasons include:

• Brand name drug price increases by pharmaceutical manufacturers

• Lack of generic equivalents

• Increases in patient co-pays

• Prescription drug deductibles

• Changes to the lists of drugs covered by a patient's plan

• Shrinking "preferred pharmacy" networks

• Varying costs among pharmacies

• Delays caused by red tape (e.g., pre-certifications required by insurers)

Here are some tips to save money on your prescription drug costs:

• Ask the prescribing health care provider if there is an identical, effective generic equivalent for any brand name drug prescribed.

• For medication that must be taken on an on-going basis, see if the manufacturer of the drug offers a new or frequent user savings card.

• Contact the insurer to see if it has a preferred pharmacy network, and ask if a mail order drug distributor might offer savings.

• Price shop the pharmacies in your area. CVS may charge a
different price than Walgreens for the exact same drug.

• Ask for the price of the prescription if you didn't use your policy's prescription drug plan. (A generic might be price set at $20 by your insurer, but might be sold without your insurance card for $5, so it pays to ask).

• Ask if there is a difference in price based on dosage. There are instances where it is less expensive to take two 10-milligram pills than one 20-milligram pill.

• Call your insurer and ask if your prescription requires pre-certification.

Finally, make sure to give your insurance policy a health care check-up every year. Look closely at your policy options, including the drug lists or formularies offered by each. These formularies can change every year, even for those staying with the same insurance plan. Pharmacy networks can also change, so it's smart to double check policies that have such networks.

Savvy consumers can save on their prescription drugs by asking the right questions and shopping around.

Sarah O'Leary is a consumer health care expert and founder of Exhale Healthcare Advocates, a national independent healthcare advocacy.

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