As a pharmacist, I understand customers’ frustration with the increasing price of their medication.  Sometimes people have to choose between buying much needed medication or paying bills, and, often, it’s the medication that gets pushed aside. Well, Iʼm here to provide a few helpful tips on how to save money on your prescription medication.

GO GENERIC.  Iʼm sure you’ve heard over and over again that generic brands save money. Yet still, I hear customers either say they’ll only buy name brand or that the name brand works better.  Honestly, I have fallen into this snare before.  Recently I suffered a migraine and the first product I went for: The Name Brand.  After the headache subsided, I got to thinking, “I could have bought the generic for cheaper!”

The Facts: Generic products work just as well as the name brand and they can be significantly cheaper. Did you know that the FDA requires that generic drugs must go through the same rigorous process for approval as name brand medications? Generics must be the same as the name brand in their strength, dosage, safety, quality and in the way they work. The catch is that this only applies to medication regulated by the FDA. So there is some concern for some over the counter medications that may not be regulated by the FDA. All prescription medications, however, are regulated by the FDA. So you can be confident that when you buy that cheaper generic product it will work just as well as the name brand. There are some medications that require close monitoring of levels.  In these cases, such as with Synthroid, if you start out on a particular name brand, it’s recommended that you stick with that brand.  Make sure you speak with your pharmacist to determine if a med is available as a generic and if it’s okay for that med to be switched. It can be significantly cheaper than the name brand and provide you with the same efficacy. While you’re at it, check to see if your pharmacy has a $4 prescription plan for a 30-day supply.

SPLIT MEDICATION. Another idea to help you save money is to split medication when you can. Sometimes when medications are scored (line down the middle of the pill) they can be split. Say, for instance, your physician ordered 20 mg of a particular drug to take once a day for 30 days; thatʼs 30 pills. You can ask the physician to write for 40 mg of the drug and take one half pill daily. Thatʼs 15 pills that can be halved for a full 30 day supply. This may be a cheaper route depending on the medication.

Key things to remember when splitting medication:

  • The pills cannot be coated.
  • The pills cannot be extended or sustained released.
  • Capsules cannot be halved.
  • Pills should be cut using a pill cutter directly in half so that an equal amount of medication is available on both sides of the cut pill.
  • Make sure the medication is available in a higher strength to allow for cutting the medication in half.
  • Be sure to discuss options with your pharmacist first if you decide to split your pills.

COMBINATION PILLS AS SINGLE PILLS. This idea can be a little tricky and may only work for cash pay patients. Some pills are available as a combination (two pills in one) and may sometimes be prescribed as two separate generic pills. The 2 separate generics may be cheaper than the combination product.  You have to keep in mind that it may mean taking more pills more frequently.

COUPONS. Coupons.com offers free medication coupons (with extended expiration dates) for discounts on prescription medications.

No matter how you choose to save on prescriptions, always speak with your pharmacist first and discuss ways that may help you save. Keep in mind that your pharmacist is the medication expert, and using him or her as a resource for your prescription and OTC questions is always good medicine

This has been a guest post by Rashida from Elk Grove, CA
Find out more about the KCL Contributor Network!

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11 thoughts on “A Pharmacist’s Tips: Ways to Save on Prescription Medication”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Not all generic products work. I have GERD and the generic version of Prilosec doesn’t work for me or anyone else I know who has a serious case of it. Only the actual brand name Prilosec works.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Be aware that just because there is a generic, it doesn’t mean that it is always cheaper than the name brand. I take a particular medication that has a generic available and the name brand is cheaper. The cash cost for the name brand is cheaper than the generic version and my insurance copay is also cheaper for the name brand. In my experience Kroger and Costco have some of the best prices on meds. Definitely check and call around to a few pharmacies and see. If you’re paying out of pocket for your meds they can vary by up to $100 from one pharmacy to the next. I bet thats something the pharmacist (a.k.a. medication expert) won’t tell you!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Also, compare prices.
    We used to use the store coupons for $$ off of new/transferred scripts. and our store would take it for refills! So we were making money (Federal Blue Cross Blue Shield is great!)
    But they stopped putting those coupons out and we figured out that some of our medicines actually cost less at the Neighborhood Market Walmart over Publix and CVS!
    So I’d suggest calling asking if the store can tell you how much the script would be and of course if there are generics available (Assuming the script allows for generics).

  4. As a general rule, most extended release medications cannot be halved, but Metoprolol ER is an exception.

  5. Ruth Schlueter says:

    Sometimes being creative and talking with your DR can help too. I am on a 60mg of prozac. This is covered by insurance, but it is also on the $4.00 programs. For the dose that I needed, it was $10/month, there do not make a 60mg pill, so I had to get 90 – 20mg pills. So I know this medication comes in 20mg and 40 mg’s, so I talked to my Dr and had her switch my medication to 40 mg’s in the morning and 20 mg’s at lunch. So now I get 3 months supply of this medication for $20….saving $10 every 3 months!!!
    I do have some medical background….make sure if you think about doing something like this….talk to your Dr First!!!!

  6. Anonymous says:

    THE FACT IS GENERIC MEDICATIONS ARE NOT THE SAME AS NAME BRAND MEDICATIONS. This article is so misleading to the general public who are not aware of the FDA guidelines for generic medications!! The FDA mandates that Generics only have to be between 80% to 120% similar to the name brand product. NOT the exact same! Which means that they can be up to 20% less effective!!! Because lets face it. If a generic company can manufacture a medication that is deemed the “same” by the FDA but use less active ingredients to save on the cost… they can and they will. With some medications this 20% difference may not be as important, but some medications this difference matters a lot. So in the interest of full disclosure… lets not say that generics work “just as well as the name brand” because depending on the medication, that is NOT the case. Not to mention that if 3 different companies manufacture a specific generic med, all 3 can vary between 80%-120% so I would definitely recommend that if you choose to buy generic medications, make sure you know the manufacturer of that generic and stay with that particular brand. Again, the article above fails to state the real FACT that the FDA does NOT mandate that generics be the exact same as name brand. *****ALSO LEFT OUT OF THIS ARTICLE IS THE IMPORTANCE TO FIRST SPEAK WITH YOUR DOCTOR (NOT THE PHARMACIST) ABOUT DOING ANYTHING DIFFERENT TO YOUR MEDICATIONS. THE DOCTOR IS THE MEDICATION EXPERT AND IS THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN PRESCRIBE MEDICATIONS. NOT THE PHARMACIST.

    • Anonymous says:

      Also, if trying generics, I suggest asking your doctor to write you some form of trial prescription
      I was put on a generic that costs way less than my medicine, bought three month packs (as per prescription) and then couldn’t take it after a week!
      Just a suggestion because that was counter intuitive to buy the script and then still pay for name brand!

    • A pharmacist, as the article states, is a drug expert. I would agree with this unequivocally – I went through the curriculum! Yes, the doctor is the only one who has the authorization to change them – however pharmacists can certainly ****discuss**** with a patient the options that are available as alternatives to those medications with which they are prescribed, should they find them unsuitable for a variety of reasons (price, unable to swallow capsules, etc). You’re selling short the impact my profession has on patients.

      • Anonymous says:

        I’m not trying to sell short the impact pharmacists have on patients and how much they can help. What I have problem with is that the author of this post failed to even mention the importance of contacting the doctor FIRST and actually didn’t mention contacting the doctor at all! I believe this is extremely dangerous. And the article stated “your pharmacist is THE medication expert” not “is a medication expert”. So I would agree with you whole heartedly that pharmacists are definitely medication experts, but THE medication expert… No. But my issue is with the entire way this article is written and the false information about generic medications, not just the semantics of one word.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Pharmacies also provide discount cards for some patients to use (if they don’t have insurance) and these discount cards cannot be combined with insurance claims. Also, if you contact the drug manufacturers directly, they may give you coupon cards (usually if you qualify within a certain percentage of the federal poverty limit, sometimes 200% of the FPL). Check out needymeds.com and click on patient assistant programs on the left to see if you qualify. It’s always better to ask the pharmacy about these situations if you aren’t sure. I am in pharmacy school now and trying to save money by couponing, so I am very empathetic with others trying to save money!!