Saving at the Pharmacy Counter: How to Lower Your Prescription Drug Costs

There are simple steps you can take that may reduce the amount you pay for medications

Saving at the Pharmacy Counter: How to Lower Your Prescription Drug Costs
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September 7, 2018

If you're a budget-conscious consumer, you're always on the lookout for new ways to reduce your expenses on everything from insurance to groceries to utilities. But did you know that you can also lower the amounts you pay for prescription drugs?

Get control of your medication expenses by following these five tips:

  1. Tell your doctor you want to save on medication costs.
  2. According to a survey conducted by Consumer Reports, only six percent of people found out how much a new medication cost during their doctor's visit in spite of the toll that rising drug prices are taking on consumers.

    Always speak up when the doctor is writing your prescription. Let them know that cost matters to you as well as safety and effectiveness.

    Ask about the possibility of switching to a generic, which can cost as much as 90 percent less than brand-name drugs, or about a less expensive "therapeutic substitution," such as a different drug that works just as well. Talk about eliminating drugs you don't need any more and non-drug options that can also help your condition, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, physical therapy, exercise, or improving your diet. Ask for a 90-day prescription instead of a 30-day one so you pay one co-pay rather than three.

  3. Choose your insurance plan wisely.
  4. When you're deciding on a health plan, choose one that covers the medicines you need at a price you can afford. Since coverage will probably change each year, compare different plans during your open enrollment period.

    Remember that high-deductible plans include lower monthly premiums but require you to pay more of the costs for your medications.

    If your plan either reduces or drops coverage of a particular drug during the year, your doctor can appeal to your insurance company for an exception to cover the drug for you. Each company's administrative process for filing exceptions is different, and it can take a few weeks before a decision is made.

  5. Think about not using your insurance to pay for the drug, then shop around.
  6. Many chain and big-box pharmacies, such as Rite Aid, Walgreens, and Wal-Mart, offer hundreds of prescription medications for just a few dollars for a one-month supply for so-called "cash-paying" customers. Get into the habit of asking the pharmacist whether you'll pay less if you bypass your insurance.

    Before you pay, call around to different pharmacies in the area and check their prices, since they can vary significantly from one pharmacy to the next even within the same ZIP code.

  7. Find discount coupons online.
  8. If you'll be paying out of pocket, look up prices and discounts at nearby pharmacies ahead of time using price-comparison websites like,, or

    You might also try a low-cost online pharmacy based in the U.S., such as, but beware of fraudulent sites. Use only those online retailers operating within the U.S. and displaying the VIPPS symbol indicating that it is a Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site. After verifying legitimate retailers, read their terms carefully.

  9. Ask your pharmacist for a better deal.
  10. If you find out that your medicine is more expensive than you were expecting when you go to the pharmacy, ask the pharmacist to do some digging to find the best deal. This can yield deeper savings in the form of discount programs, cards, or coupons.

    Are you using an independent pharmacy? If so, ask whether or not it will match or beat competitors' prices.