Ask your doctor or pharmacist about buying a generic version of a brand name medicine. If there is no generic version of a medication you are taking, ask your pharmacist or doctor if you can safely switch to a different drug that has a generic equivalent.
- Generic medications are usually much less expensive than brand name medicines.
- Generic medicines are manufactured after the brand name medicine's patent has expired. Most FDA-approved generic medicines are almost identical to their brand name versions. They may be a different color or shape but they can be safely used in place of the brand name medicine.
- When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finds a generic medicine to be therapeutically equivalent to the brand name medicine, the FDA assures the physician, pharmacist, and patient that they can expect the same benefits and safety profile. Your pharmacist will know when the FDA has found a generic medicine to be therapeutically equivalent to the brand name medicine.
Sometimes a lower cost over-the-counter medicine will work just as well as prescription medicine. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if an over-the-counter medication will meet your needs.
- Several drugs that used to be available only by prescription can now be purchased over-the-counter. Examples include Claritin® (the allergy medication) and Prilosec® (a drug used to treat stomach ulcers and acid reflux disease).
- The over-the-counter versions of these drugs often cost much less than the prescription versions.
- Make sure both your pharmacist and doctor know that you are taking over-the-counter medications.
- When starting a new medication, you may want to order a small quantity the first time you have the prescription filled. To save money in the long run, be sure that any new medicines work for you before buying larger quantities. Try a week's worth. That way, if the medication doesn't help you or you have a reaction, you will have spent only a fraction of the money. You can usually buy a smaller quantity of a medicine at your local pharmacy than you can buy through the mail.
- If you are on a medication that works for you and that you expect to take for a long time, you might save by buying a larger quantity. Medications are usually cheaper per dose if you buy a larger quantity, such as a 3-month supply instead of a 1-month supply.
- In some cases, you can save by splitting higher dosage pills. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you can buy your medicine in a higher dosage pill that you can divide with a pill splitter. The cost per dose can be less when buying a higher dosage. Some pharmacists will even split the pills for you. Taking the right dosage is important. You should never split pills without approval from your doctor or pharmacist.
- Comparison shop. Different pharmacies charge different prices for the same medications. Sometimes the difference in price is fairly significant. It can pay to shop around.