Prescription Drugs: 4 Money Saving Ideas

I’m an anxious man in an anxious world. Many things cause me anxiety. 

Gorgeous women
Speaking in public
Two more years of Mr. Obama
My underfunded retirement account

In early 2009 my anxiety reached the point of turning into an actual panic disorder. For those of you calm, cool, and collected souls out there, a panic attack most closely resembles an overwhelmingly intense psychological feeling that you are going to die. And the best part –  a panic attack actually includes physical symptoms that appear nearly identical to a heart attack (sweating, tightness in your chest, tingling in your fingers, dizziness, difficulty breathing, palpitations, etc). There is nothing quite like being a grown man and lying curled up in the middle of your living room convinced that you are going to die and having no idea why. The best part is that some of us get to ride this roller-coaster multiple times a day for weeks, months, and years.

Good times those panic attacks!

But god bless the pharmaceutical companies. For all the flack they take as a popular scapegoat amongst the herd (you know, those individuals looking to point the finger outwardly at the thing, person, or entity most responsible for their life being difficult and not turning out how they planned), the pharmaceutical companies really do some great work. And god bless them for making a profit – developing drugs, jumping through all the regulatory hoops, getting new treatments approved, marketing them – the business of pharmaceuticals is no easy task.

Along came Lexapro

So after my two month long emasculation at the hands of panic, I found relief in my little daily dosage of 10mg Lexapro. No, it wasn’t the expensive cardiac tests, the trips to the ER, the extensive bloodwork, the shipping of urine across country to test hormone levels, that solved the mysterious riddle of my impending bouts of “Holy sh*t, I’m dying and I don’t know why!” It was a 65 year old pyschiatrist who sat me down and said, “You’ve got panic disorder my anxious little man. Take these.” I took that first free sample of Lexapro in my hands, made the sign of the cross (bless me father for I have panicked), and it has been all gumdrops and lollipops since!

So who cares?

I told you a little bit about my situation to help set up today’s finanical fitness lesson – which is “Don’t overpay for your prescription drugs”. And truth be told, the only thing that makes me more anxious than the idea of standing at the front of a room giving a speech that I haven’t prepared for to a bunch of beautiful women that all voted for Mr Obama, is the idea of paying more for things than I actually need to.

As with many of the purchases we make in life, by and large we are all too lazy to really care about whether or not we’re getting a good deal. Sure we like to think we’re sophisticated consumers who maximize the purchasing power of our dollars – but the truth is probably closer to something like this “Oh hell, it’s too complicated or far away … I’ll just get this _______ .”

Such was the case in the story of “Mitchell, the Little Anxious Man and his Good Friend, Lexapro”.  And because sharing is caring and I suspect a number of you might be applying a similarly misguided ‘strategy’ when it comes to your prescription drug spending (c’mon … most of us are on something), here is a list of 4 ways you can save money on your prescription drugs costs.

4 Ways to Save Money on your Prescription Drugs

1) Take advantage of mail order prescription drug services if they are available to you. Many private health insurance programs offer a discount on maintenance prescription drugs when they are ordered through the mail instead of picked up at the pharmacy. The program may require that the doctor writes a prescription for a 90 day supply instead of 30 days. Still, this benefit can offer significant savings on monthly drug costs of 25% in some cases. In addition, getting prescriptions this way saves one from having to make a trip to the pharmacy.

2) Ask your doctor for drug samples, even a few will help over time. Pharmaceutical companies (like anybody else making a product) want to get their product into the hands of potential customers and the best way to do this is to provide samples to the people who will be ‘dealing’ the actual product: doctors. I’m a big fan of freebies – event when it comes to pharmaceuticals!

3) Think generic. Talk to your doctor about all of your prescription drugs and see if any are available in generic formulas that would be suitable for your needs. If generic medications are available for a lower co-pay, consider switching. You may still be silly enough to be status driven with some of your other purchases (“like I’ve just got to wear, like, name brand. duh?!”), but pharmaceuticals is not any area where name brand should mean much.

4) Go Big or Go Home. Many pill-form drugs are produced in several different dosages. For example, a medicine may be prescribed at a 25mg or a 50mg dose. Some medicines can be prescribed at a higher dose and then the tablets can be split in two. High-dose pill are generally priced the same as or slightly higher than their low-dose counterparts. Ask your doctor if you can safely split a higher-dosage pill in half, which can save you a bundle on your co-pays. However, not all pills can be split, so it is important that you discuss the safety of this with your doctor and pharmacist.

In all seriousness, these suggestions really can help reduce your prescription drug costs. I take a single prescription drug and even with my insurance it was costing me over $700 a year! Not having had previous experience having to take a routine/maintenance prescription drug, I spent the better part of a year wasting money by paying more for my Lexapro that necessary.  I would drive to the closest pharmacy, pick up my 10mg pills, and be on my way; another purchasing decision dictated by a combination of convenience and laziness. 

But then the monthly cost really started to bother me and I decided to be proactive in looking for ways to reduce this monthly line item in my budget.  I started to imagine what the financial burden for individuals who have to take three, four, or five different prescriptions on a regular basis must look like. 

Needless to say, prescription drugs (like any type of healthcare service/product) is an area of household spending where it really pays to put some thought into controlling costs and proactively looking for ways to get the most bang for your book. 

For those of you  trying to financially manage the costs associated with multiple prescriptions I would be interested in hearing your thoughts? Are there other strategies you’ve used?  Suggestions you might share with TDS readers?