5 Ways to Save Money on Prescription Medications

by Kevin on March 27, 2013

Healthcare costs are rising across the board, but one area that seems to be outpacing the rest is prescription medications. It isn’t just that prices are rising, it’s also that there are more medications for more illnesses, being prescribed more frequently.

How do you save money on prescription medications while still taking the very best care of your health?

1. Buy generic whenever possible.

Generic prescriptions are almost always less expensive than brand names. Most times, prescribing doctors will indicate that pharmacists provide generic where available, but that’s not always the case. Make it a practice that any time you’re given a prescription by a doctor, that you specifically ask him or her for generic alternatives.

Not only can the savings on the price of the generic drug be cheaper, but many health insurance companies require a smaller co-payment on generics than they do on brand names. If you’re on any kind of ongoing drug therapies, using generics instead of brand names can save you several hundred dollars per year. And as the years pass, the savings can really add up.

2. Get free samples from your doctor.

Doctors often get free samples of various prescription drugs from the manufacturers of those medications as an inducement for the doctor to prescribe them. Some doctors will give these to their patients voluntarily, but it never hurts to ask.

Anytime you get a prescription order from a doctor, ask if you can be started out with free samples. If you can get enough to cover the first month, you’ll save at least that much. If you can ask for free samples anytime you need a prescription, you’ll save that much more.

3. Buy in larger quantities.

Typically when doctors prescribe medications they’ll do so in 30-day increments. There are certain medications which by law cannot be prescribed for longer periods, but most medications don’t come under that restriction.

You can often save significant money by buying prescriptions in quantities of 90 days supply or greater. The reason is that you are buying in bulk. The more of anything that you buy, the less expensive it typically is on a per unit basis. Sure, you’ll be spending more money up front for the larger supply, but the savings on a per month basis can be significant.


You should try to get larger supplies anytime the option is available, and the prices are clearly lower.

4. Try mail order sources.

Many insurance companies offer a mail order prescription alternative, and some will even try to promote this method of ordering medications. Mail order providers offer less expensive prescriptions because they operate out of central facilities dispersing large quantities of medications. Most prescriptions are purchased at large chain retail pharmacies that have hundreds or thousands of outlets that add to the cost of prescriptions. Mail order providers don’t have a large distribution chain, and can pass the savings on to their customers.

Even if your health insurance provider doesn’t promote using a mail-order source, ask if the option is available. Insurance companies will typically work with a very small number of mail order pharmacies, and may only work with one. But the savings that you can get are significant, in addition to the fact that the health insurance company may offer an even lower co-pay if you purchase through the mail order option.

5. Improve your condition!

There are certain diseases and ailments that are completely beyond human control. But most have to do with lifestyle, and that’s something that you have control over. If you can improve the state of your health, you may be able to reduce or even eliminate your dependence on prescription medications. That will save you more money than any other effort you can make.

Hypertension, diabetes, many forms of heart disease, and many degenerative diseases are either caused or accelerated by poor lifestyle habits. You can decrease your chance of contracting any of these ailments simply by giving up cigarette smoking, cutting back on alcohol consumption, eating less, exercising more, controlling your weight and avoiding dangerous activities.

The payoff can be permanently lower healthcare expenses, including the many high cost prescription drug therapies.

If you’re on long-term prescription therapies, what are you doing to control the cost? Leave a comment!

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Money Beagle March 27, 2013

One thing I never really realized is that you’ll pay different co-pays depending on what pharmacy you visit. We found that Target charged less for the same prescriptions than we got at Walgreens or CVS. You’d think they’d be the same, but that would make too much sense. It definitely helps to shop around.

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Kevin March 28, 2013

I’ve never heard of that but it’s good to know, thanks!

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krantcents March 27, 2013

I do all your points and set up a flexible spending account to use pretax dollars to pay for prescriptions

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Kevin March 28, 2013

Then you’re saving money AND getting a tax break. Brilliant strategy!

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Thad March 28, 2013

You can also sign up for prescription discount programs. Our local grocery has one that offered a lower cost than BCBS’s prescription network offered.

Now that we have chosen to leave insurance (ask me if you want to know why), we have used a discount pharmacy network connected with our membership in The Health Co-op. That lowered cost from the retail price of generics too.

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Kevin March 28, 2013

Hi Thad, I’d actually like to know why you left insurance. Send me an email please (just click on my name).

I’m hearing of people opting out, but I wouldn’t trust doing it. But everytime we have a claim denied the idea seems more appealing…

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Caesar F March 28, 2013

Aside from laughter, exercise is the best option. The more exercising done, the less visits to the doctor.

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Kevin April 2, 2013

Laughter doesn’t hurt either! It may counter some of the stress that’s so common these days.

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William @ Bite the Bullet April 2, 2013

We found that Safeway offers lower prices when we use our Safeway card and pay cash, than the co-pay.

But #5 above is probably the best thing. :)

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Kevin April 2, 2013

Hi William–Yes, it definately pays to shop and to take advantage of specials where ever they’re offered. That’s especially true with ongoing drug therapies.

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Discount April 4, 2013

But are these discounts as great as they may seem? I would say no. A not-so-great deal can become a glorified bargain if it involves finding the promo code to enable it, whereas the same deal could potentially be made as a general ‘discount’ and would be overlooked by many. Especially if the deal is heavily advertised by the retailer. Coupon codes, however, are sometimes conceived as being a secret that even the retailers themselves don’t know about. It can almost feel like you are cheating the system, knowing that others paid full price for the thing you are about to buy.

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millie August 9, 2013

My friend turned me on to the website Medicationcoupons.com. You can get free samples of medicine, drug coupons for all types of medicine and they have a discount card that’s free. I have been using this site for just over a year and have probably saved close to $1,200 a year.

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