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How to reduce prescription medication costs

For the millions of people who rely on prescription medications every day, the day when a drug faces generic competition is one many circle on their calendars. That's because generic prescriptions are often significantly less expensive than brand name medications, and consumers are able to save substantial amounts of money once a brand name drug faces generic competition. But many men and women currently taking a brand name prescription might be quick to point out that, while generic medications cost less, brand name prescriptions often rise in price in the months before they face generic competition.

Such was the findings of a 2011 study from the AARP Public Policy Institute that examined the 217 brand name drugs most commonly used by people in Medicare. Prices of drugs facing generic competition in 2010 rose by an average of nearly 14 percent in 2009, an increase that was nearly twice the amount of all other drugs.

That's a troublesome reality for anyone taking a brand name prescription, but especially so for older men and women living on fixed incomes. Though drug manufacturers aren't I likely to change their practices. there arc still ways men and women can reduce prescription medication costs.

Ask for generics. If there are generic alternatives to brand name medications available, always ask a physician for those medications instead of their more expensive brand name counterparts. Sometimes doctors prescribe brand name medications despite the availability of cheaper and equally effective generic medications.

"Test drive" a drug first. Just because a doctor prescribes a drug doesn't mean the patient will respond to that drug. Many men and women find they are too sensitive to a given medication and stop taking it after just a few days. Unfortunately, they paid for a full prescription and cannot return the pills they don't plan to use. Individuals who have a history of sensitivity to medications should "test drive" a drug first, ordering just a few pills or asking a physician for samples to see how well the body handles them. This won't necessarily matter for people with flat-dollar copayments (you will essentially have to pay two copayments if the drug proves effective), but those without such a plan can save themselves some money if medication does not work out.

Buy in bulk. Men and women who have been taking a certain medication for a long time and expect to keep taking it might want to consider buying the medicine in bulk. This can save money; just make sure pills purchased won't surpass their expiration date before you take them.

Inquire about combination medications. Sometimes medications used to treat the same condition can be purchased as combination pills. This will only require one prescription instead of two. For instance, some blood pressure medications have proven effective at treating other conditions as well. But don't experiment on your own. Consult your physician about your medications and ask if any of them can be used to effectively serve double-duty and save you money.

Look for programs that offer relief. There are programs that offer some relief with regards to paying for prescription medications. Discuss such plans with a physician to determine your eligibility, which might be determined by your age or current prescriptions.