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The cost of prescription drugs costs has risen sharply in recent years.  Many Americans depend on medications to ease pain, improve breathing, prevent depression, stave off heart disease, control allergies, and more.  Whether the drugs are improving quality of life or necessary to maintain life, whether or not to continue taking the medication is often simply not a choice.  This can mean a sometimes very difficult financial burden for individuals and families.  With healthcare costs continuing to account ofr a larger and larger portion of the average American’s expenses, below are five tips to reduce the out-of-pocket cost of your prescription drugs below.

1.  Go Generic

Choosing a generic alternative is probably the most common and easiest money-saving solution when it comes to paying for medication.  What many may not realize, though, is that generics continue to become available as patents expire on brand name medication.  Just because a generic form was not available when you began taking a medication, doesn’t mean there is not one available now.  It’s worth checking into periodically.  Drugs.com has good information about prescription drugs and can provide you with the generic name for any drug.  Additionally, your health insurance or prescription insurance plan website may have a tool that recommends generics based on your prescription history.

Most importantly, consult with your doctor about the decision to switch to a generic form.  He or she can help you weigh the benefits and explain the differences between the versions of the drug (there often are some).  Another benefit of discussing it with your doctor is that, sometimes they may be aware of a similar drug that has a generic form, even if the one you are currently taking does not.

2.  Get Help From the Manufacturer

Many pharmaceutical companies offer patient assistance programs to help offset or eliminate the cost of medication.  If you qualify, the savings can be significant.  Websites like RxAssist.org and NeedyMeds.org maintain databases of information about these programs.  You can search by drug name or company name and see what programs might be available to you.

3.  Shop Around, Cash May Be Cheaper

With copays climbing and companies and individuals opting for higher deductibles to help offset premium increases, it may actually make sense to pay for your medication out of pocket rather than going through insurance. Depending on the drug, it could be less to simply pay cash.  Check sites like GoodRx.com and PharmacyChecker.com to compare the cost of your medications at wide number of retailers.  RetailMeNot Rx Saver even has an app that you can use on your smartphone (iPhone appAndroid app).  And don’t forget to about warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club who are known for low prices on prescriptions.  Their cash price may well be less than your copay.

4.  Switch Pharmacies

Pharmacies are for-profit entities.  As such, they want as many customers as they can get.  Often they will offer gift cards and other incentives to switch or switch back to their pharmacy.  Transferring your prescriptions over is usually a straightforward process that the new pharmacy will be happy to assist you with.

It’s also worth checking to see if your prescription benefit plan has a mail order option.  You can often save 50 to 100 percent of one 30 day copay when you order a 90 day supply.  Not to mention that having a 90 day supply show up on your doorstep can be a very convenient way to get your medication.

5.  Consider Pill Splitting

Some people have found that getting their doctor to write a prescription for a higher dose and then splitting those pills can be a great way to literally cut costs.  Higher dose pills can cost close to the same as lower dose pills so it can yield a hefty savings.  This is definitely an idea that needs to be run by your doctor as it may not be a ok for every medication.  Some medications, for example, have a time-release coating that may be destroyed by breaking them.  Even if your medication is ok to split, it may or may not be something your doctor is willing to do.  And some pills may even be unsafe to split.  A general rule of thumb is that if there is not a score line, a pill should probably not be split.  Your pharmacist is a good source of information on which medications may be safe to split.