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How to Save on Prescription Medications

Reading time: 3 minutes

Approximately 45 percent of Americans take prescription medications, according to data from the CDC. However, the cost of these drugs can be staggering, especially for individuals who need more than one prescription to stay healthy. As prescription drug prices rise, there are a few ways you may be able to lower your prescription costs:

  1. Check your formulary. A formulary is a list of medications covered by your health insurance plan. The copayments for similar drugs produced by different companies can vary widely depending on your particular formulary. Instead of accepting the first name-brand drug your doctor suggests, ask for a few options and find out what your copayments would be on each.
  2. Appeal for coverage from your insurer. If a medication isn’t on your plan’s formulary, you may be able to work with your doctor to file an appeal. Your insurer is required, in some cases, to cover the cost of a drug that is considered medically necessary to keep you well, even if it isn’t on your formulary. If an appeal is rejected, contact your state health insurance regulator to request a free, independent medical review to see if you can get the drug covered that way.
  3. Ask whether generic drugs will work for you. In general, generic drugs are cheaper than their name-brand counterparts, yet they use the same formula and will work the same. Although doctors may automatically prescribe a drug by brand, ask whether a less expensive generic option is available.
  4. Shop around. The cost of prescription drugs can vary wildly from one pharmacy to the next. Instead of choosing chain drugstores, consider local mom-and-pop pharmacies or other smaller retailers, which may offer better deals on prescriptions than the chains.
  5. Consider paying out of pocket. For some prescriptions, co-payments are actually higher than out-of-pocket costs. If you have insurance, be sure to ask the pharmacist if it would be cheaper to skip the copay and pay directly instead.
  6. Consider getting a 90-day prescription. If you need your drug for the long term, a 90-day prescription not only cuts down on trips to the pharmacy but also could save you money. If using insurance, you’ll only pay one co-payment for a 90-day supply, rather than a total of three co-pays for the 30-day refills you’d get during the same time period. This is particularly useful when buying drugs online because you also save on shipping costs.

There are additional options for those 65 or older and eligible for Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage:

  1. Review your Medicare Part D plan annually. Before signing for the same prescription drug coverage you had last year, review your Part D plan during Medicare’s open enrollment in the fall. Compare the cost of the drugs you use in each available plan, rather than just looking at premiums and deductibles, especially if you require a lot of medications or anticipate needing several in the coming year.
  2. Look for pharmaceutical assistance programs. Some pharmaceutical companies offer financial help to people enrolled in Medicare Part D plans. In other cases, states will help pay for some of your drug costs. Visit to find out if your state has an assistance program for pharmaceuticals.
  3. Check to see if you qualify for extra help from the federal government. A federal program for seniors, called Extra Help, offers assistance with costs associated with Medicare drug plans, including monthly premiums, annual deductibles and prescription co-payments. To see if you qualify, visit
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