Make the Most of Your Medication Dollar

Jun 17, 2013
Dr. Curt Furberg provides patients with prescription drug cost-saving tips: how to comparison shop, get larger supplies and split pills.

When it comes to shopping, most consumers will want to know the price of a product and will often look for the best deal before making a purchase. That’s not always the case when buying prescription drugs, which means many people are paying more than they should for their medications.

One sure way to save money on prescriptions is to use a generic instead of a brand-name drug. Most health plans that require a copayment (a set out-of-pocket amount you pay for a prescription medication), charge significantly less for a generic than a brand drug. For those who pay coinsurance (a percentage of the actual price of medications) or are uninsured, generics also will offer savings.

Generics: Cost-Effective and Clinically Equivalent

While generics have always been less expensive than brand-name medications, in recent years, the cost of brands has been rising while generic drug prices have been falling. The Express Scripts Drug Trend Report shows that brand drugs which originally cost $100 in 2008 would now cost $163.08 in 2008 dollars, and generic drugs priced at $100 in 2008 would now cost $60.96. This research proves that it’s even more cost effective to use generics today than it was in the past.

Studies also show that because they’re more affordable, generics can actually be better for your health. People who use generics are 62% more likely to take their chronic medications regularly than those taking brand-name drugs.

Never assume that your doctor takes cost into account when prescribing medications. Make sure to always ask if there’s a generic or lower-cost option available.

Money Saving Tips

Here are some other ways to save on medications without sacrificing quality of care:

Comparison shop: The cost of medications can vary from pharmacy to pharmacy, so make sure to comparison-shop if you pay coinsurance or don’t have a prescription drug benefit. Home delivery through companies such as Express Scripts is often less expensive than obtaining it at a retail pharmacy.

Ask for more: If you’re taking a medication for a chronic condition, ask your doctor to write a prescription for a 90-day supply rather than one for 30 days because the cost will be lower for the higher quantity of medication. Home delivery pharmacies provide 90-day supplies as do some retail pharmacies.

Splitting a high-dose pill: Depending on the specific drug you’ve been prescribed, pill-splitting can be another option for reducing the cost of medications. If the price of a higher dose of the drug is similar to the dose you’ve been prescribed, you should talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the safety of splitting the pills. Some medications, such as time-release drugs and capsules, are not appropriate for pill-splitting.

Lifestyle changes: Simple lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, are often an effective way to improve health outcomes.

Learn More

Express Scripts members can learn more about taking medications properly and download selected chapters from the eBook, Knowing Your Medications: A Guide to Becoming an Informed Patient, by signing in to their member account. To purchase a copy, visit

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