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How to save on medications

The right medications can make it possible for those of us who live with depression, bipolar disorder and other mental health conditions to live satisfying and productive lives. But, if we don’t have insurance to cover their costs, we may be forced to spend more on medicines than on food. If we do have prescription drug coverage, we may find that some drugs cost us higher out-of-pocket fees than others.

Here are some ways we can save on the costs of our prescription drugs:

Talk to your doctor
Your doctor can help with prescription savings if you ask:

  • if there’s a lower-cost version of the medicine you need
  • if there’s a generic-drug version of the medicine you need
  • if you can have free samples of your prescription drug
  • if it’s ok to split your pills to stretch your prescription dollars.

Your pharmacist can tell you if a generic version of your prescription is available. Generics could save you 30-60 percent or more off the cost of brand-name drugs. For most drugs, the generic version is just as effective as the name-brand version. About 75 percent of brand-name, FDA-approved prescription drugs have generic-drug versions. In fact, more than half of all US prescriptions — more than 1 billion a year — are for generic drugs.

Low-income drug assistance
You might qualify for help paying for your medications. Read this.

Shop around
Prices for the same drug, either name-brand or generic, can vary enormously from store to store. Call your regular pharmacy and a few others to check on prescription drug prices.

Pharmacies often mark up the cost of generic drugs in staggering amounts to make up for the small profit margin on brand name drugs. It pays to shop around.

If you find a lower price than your pharmacy offers, ask if they’ll match it.

Costco, Target and Wal-Mart have discount drug programs. You can save big on some, but not all, medications. If your medication is on the list of discounted drugs, you may be able to buy it for as little as $4.00.

Consider using mail-order pharmacy services.
You can usually order as much as a 3-month supply of your prescription medicine by mail for less than what individual prescription refills would cost at a local retail pharmacy. Your healthcare plan may partner with one. Medco is one. If you meet income requirements, Xubex or Rx Outreach are options. Beware of counterfeit drug distributors: If you use an Internet pharmacy service, be sure it carries the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites program (VIPPS) seal.

Pharmacy Checker is one source for online pharmacies. The site allows you to compare costs and order from licensed pharmacies in the U.S., Canada and other countries. (Most are Canadian.) Physical addresses and/or telephone numbers of these pharmacies are provided. All participating pharmacies require a prescription.

You can save an average of 30 percent on brand-name drugs from Canada; generics are usually cheaper from U.S. pharmacies. Important Note: Buying drugs from Canada is illegal, but U.S. residents buying small amounts of prescription drugs for their own personal use (See FDA regulations) are very rarely prosecuted. Some state governments support buying drugs from Canada.

To search for mail-order pharmacies online without including those located in Canada, do a search for this phrase: mail order pharmacies -Canada

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