(Times Free Press)Q: Even though I’m not terribly old, I take many prescription drugs, and the money in my wallet seems to dwindle more each month. Friends tell me I’m overpaying, even using insurance benefits. Can you advise me what I should be doing or how I can get discount prescriptions?
Answers by Dr. –Malcolm Meds
Dear Mr. Meds: Thanks for your trust but, unfortunately, I’m not a prescription savings specialist. With that said, I’m certain Consumer Reports magazine offers us the correct lowdown. My spin on their advice follows to help those with and without health insurance.
1 Ask your doctor to prescribe a generic, unless none is available for your condition or the generic doesn’t work as well as the name brand. Be aware the generic sometimes is cheaper with retailer discounts than if consumers use insurance. Depending upon where you live, Costco, Sam’s, CVS, Target, Walgreen, Walmart and others can save you money. Be sure to factor in membership fees. Most drug stores charge $15 to $35. Costco, Walmart and Target don’t mandate an enrollment fee for prescription drugs, and they’re generally less expensive.
2 Request a 90-day prescription for meds you’ll take long-term. Three months’ worth of meds almost always cost less than a one month supply. For example, generic Metformin (Glucophage) prescribed for type 2 diabetes retails for $17 for one month; the same RX for 90 days runs between $6.39 and $15.99, depending on where you shop. Ask the pharmacist what the drug would cost if you don’t use your insurance, then ask for the lowest cost. This can be a big surprise in some instances.
3 Check for other perks at the location. CVS, Kmart and Walgreen offer discounts from 5 to 20 percent on flu shots and other similar services. If you prefer Target, enroll in its Pharmacy Rewards program to get a 5% discount on one day’s shopping after the druggist fills your first RX; every five fills afterward give you another 5 percent discount on store purchases. Walmart allows free shipping on many of its $10, 90-day prescriptions.
4 Watch for all restrictions. Most discounts aren’t offered with insurance or other promotions; furthermore, certain discounts are offered only to customers who don’t have drug insurance or for drugs not covered by insurance. Costco doesn’t give Medicare or Medicaid participants any discount whatsoever.
5 Be careful about your privacy. If you are required to check a box that gives the pharmacy, insurance companies or drug manufacturers the right to contact you, pause for a moment. Ask if you can still join the program and receive the discounted price if you do not check that box. If the answer if no, then decide if your loss of privacy is worth the dollars saved.
6 Fill your prescriptions at the same pharmacy. That druggist has access to all your history, interactions, allergies and so forth. (I think many pharmacists stay abreast of drugs better than physicians do).
7 Check for discount prescription cards offered by some physicians. While they have nothing to do with insurance coverage, these specialty discount prescription cards can sometimes provide a better cost. (We use three sources: insurance, a Bilo discount, and an independent discount card. Depending on the prescription fee, any of the three may be cheaper.