I have been considered uninsurable for the past four years or so, and am what medical providers call ‘self pay’ or ‘cash pay’, meaning I don’t have insurance and am paying for things myself. This has helped me learn how to get medical care less expensively and I have learned how to work with my doctor to get reduced costs on services and medication.
I have been prescribed multiple medications to treat my ongoing chronic illnesses, including adrenal insufficiency, hyperadrenergic postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, hypothyroidism, and hypopituitarism. All of these conditions require medication on a regular basis. In addition to this, I take steroids that lower my immune system and I am a staph carrier, so I’m prone to infection as well.
All this to say, I have been prescribed lots of medication in my life, and without insurance, I’ve had to learn how to get things as cheap as I can.
Prescription Drug Plans – In Store Discounts
Many major pharmacies, such as those located in the grocery stores (Walmart, HEB, Kroger, etc), have generic drugs for low prices, such as the $5 list at HEB or the $4 list at Walmart. These same medications can be purchased at the same pharmacies for a three-month supply at an even lower price, particularly if you will be taking them for a long period of time. For example, my levothyroxine needed for the hypothyroidism is $5 at HEB’s pharmacy for a one-month supply, can be purchased for $9 for a three-month supply. That’s a savings of $24 per year. It’s not much, but the small savings add up.
Ask Doctor for Generics or Less Expensive Alternatives
So when the doctor writes a new prescription, ask the doctor if the generic version is available and ensure they write the prescription to allow for the generic. Check that drug on the internet or with a pharmacist to see if there is a less expensive alternative.
For example, my doctor prescribed me a medication for arthritis that cost $110 per month, but the pharmacist told me there was a generic drug very similar to the one prescribed for only $5 per month. A quick call to my doctor’s office and a new prescription was faxed to the pharmacy. That was a savings of over $1200 per year.
Ask Doctor to Rewrite Drug Quantity to Save on Prescriptions
This is one way of saving money on prescription drugs that most people, including doctors, might not realize or even think about. Sometimes, changing the quantity of the drug can drastically reduce the price. The reason for this is similar to reasons it’s cheaper to buy in bulk than to buy smaller quantities: The pharmacy gets discounts on bigger orders too. For example, my pain medication, Vicoprofen generic (Hydrocodone / Ibuprofen) is $68 for sixty pills my local pharmacy, but when the doctor writes the prescription for one hundred and twenty pills, it costs only $89. I get double the pills for only a bit over $20 more. That’s a savings of more than $250 per year.
Ask Doctor to Rewrite Drug Strength to Save on Prescriptions
This is another one doctors might not realize. Unless you’re taking an extended release or long-acting drug, this should be possible, but any long-acting or extended release medications probably won’t allow for this.
My doctors prescribed Neurontin, 300mg, three times per day. The Neurontin prescription for the generic version (Gabapentin) cost $75. But if the doctor rewrote the prescription to three 100mg pills three times per day, the cost of the prescription was only $15. Why? Because the 100mg Gabapentin was on the $5 list for a one-month supply. Since my prescription was essentially triple a one-month supply, it was $15 for the 100mg pills, a savings of $720 per year.
With my Clindamyacin prescription, we did the same thing. The 300mg, four times per day prescription of clindamyacin antibiotics cost $125. But when the doctor changed the strength to two 150mg pills, instead of one 300mg pill, the new prescription cost $75. The total dosage is the same, but the cost is simply less expensive.
Is it Safe for the Doctor to Rewrite Prescriptions?
Absolutely, it is safe to have a doctor rewrite the prescription for a less expensive alternative. Many times, the drug is the exact same drug as the doctor prescribed, but the pharmacy is able to get it cheaper at the more common and more frequently prescribed dosages.
My doctor has never had a problem rewriting prescriptions for me after I discover I can get the medication cheaper. My pharmacist is very helpful in determining how to save some money too. That’s part of a pharmacist’s job, to help patients take the best medications for them, with the least amount of interactions, at an affordable price. Most are more than happy to suggest alternatives that you can ask your doctor about. Only your doctor can prescribe, but a pharmacist just might be able to make educated suggestions.
For me, these steps have saved over $2200 per year in my regular monthly medications and even more money on those occasional prescriptions too. Who couldn’t use another $2200 in their pocket? But you don’t have to take medication regularly to save on just one prescription using the same methods. Sure, not all medications can be rewritten, but for the ones that can, it doesn’t hurt to talk to your doctor and ask for a rewritten prescription.
Personal experience working with my doctor, PA and pharmacist.
HEB’s Drug Pricing Tool, Retrieved April 17th, 2011