Health Team

Prescriptions are costly, but saving money is possible

Posted September 3, 2009 4:28 p.m. EDT
Updated September 3, 2009 7:12 p.m. EDT

— Through better communication with your doctor and pharmacist, you could likely be saving money on prescription drugs.

Raleigh pharmacist Mike James said a lot of his customers don’t know that doctors often prescribe brand name medications when a cheaper, generic brand is available.

“Always ask your doctor if there is a generic available for this particular medication,” James said.

James said many new brand name drugs simply combine two generics, so ask about getting the two generics instead.

“A brand might cost a patient a $30 or $40 co-pay, whereas two generics may cost $5 or $10 each,” James said.

Sometimes you can cut the cost of medication by splitting the pill itself. Your doctor might prescribe a double strength medication, which is comparable in cost to the regular strength version but lasts twice as long when split in half.

“However, there are certain long-term medications that are not a good idea to break in half, because they are made to release on a certain schedule,” James said.

Scored tablets, which show a line in the middle, are safe to cut. However, James recommends using a pill splitter, rather than a knife or razor.

Many people on the Medicare Part D plan also run out of prescription drug coverage too early in the year.

“So they start skipping doses, they starting putting off their medication,” James said.

James said people should never skip a dose. He says your pharmacist may be able to help you choose medications to pay cash for rather than using insurance, which can help you delay the end of your drug coverage.

“(Such as) saving the more expensive drug for the insurance and buying those less expensive for cash,” James said.

Also, have one pharmacist handle all medications to make sure you are not taking any dangerous drug combinations.