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Saving Money on Medication: 7 Practical Tips

Staying healthy is practical, trendy, and also economically beneficial, while being sick becomes more expensive from year to year. According to RxPrice Watch Report, in the US an annual supply of one brand name drug costed an average of $6800 in 2016. Older Americans take 4.5 different prescription drugs monthly, and drug prices increase by almost 9% annually. The problem of increasing medication costs is being especially critical for people with chronic ailments who permanently depends on expensive drugs.

Consumers may not be able to influence pharmaceutical corporations and their pricing policies, but saving on medicines is possible by making rational choices. These 7 practical tips will help you reduce the cost of both prescription and OTC drugs.

Check low-cost alternatives

Doctors often prescribe expensive and widely advertised drugs, which sometimes don’t have cheaper equivalents. However, expensive brand-name medications often DO have low-cost alternatives also known as generics. Generics are copies of original brand-name drugs with the same intended use, positive effects and risks. People tend to believe that significant price difference between branded and generic drugs is caused by inferior quality or efficiency. In reality, generics cost less because their manufacturers don’t bear the costs of product development and marketing. The FDA requires that generics have the same therapeutic effect as their original counterparts.

As a dramatic example, 60 tablets of Vimolo, which contains naproxen and esomeprazole as its active agents, cost around $2,500–3,000 in the US. Alternatively, buying 60 tablets of generic naproxen and esomeprazole separately will cost less than $50. Similarly, there are no substantial grounds to believe that the expensive Bystolic used for high blood pressure is better than its cheaper alternatives, carvedilol and metoprolol.

Compare prices in different pharmacies

Different pharmacies may set different prices for the same product. Before buying drugs, particularly the expensive ones, it is highly recommended to analyze prices in a number of pharmacies. Although it might sound complicated, prices are often found on the pharmacy’s website; several online services offer convenient drug price comparison, which covers major drugstores based on your location. In addition, avoid buying medicines in pharmacies located in shopping centers and strip malls. You may notice that pharmacies located in their vicinity tend to set higher prices: typically, this is due to the higher cost of rental space.

Learn about foreign alternatives

Prices for medicines and medical services in different geographical locations can vary so much that it becomes more cost effective to purchase them in another city or country. Insulin price crisis has sent Americans traveling all the way to Canada in order to purchase the life-saving drug, which costs about 10 times less in the neighboring country. The difference in price is startling: $30 vs $300 for a vial of the same product. From California alone, an estimated 1 million people travel to Mexico for prescription drugs and health services.

Soon there may be even more reasons to cross the border for health reasons. The Canadian government has announced new regulations that will come into force on July 1, 2020. The new regulations will be aimed at reducing prices on prescription drugs and protecting consumers from excessive prices set by pharmaceutical companies.

Follow the correct administration procedure

Spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars on prescription and OTC drugs monthly, patients can neglect the correct administration procedure, which is necessary to achieve the intended effect. Taking medication with coffee instead of water, mixing drugs with alcohol, or not following the before/after meal regimen can reduce the therapeutic effect, which makes the money at least partially wasted. Moreover, some drugs enhance each other’s effects, for example, iron and vitamin C preparations. There are also medications that work more efficiently at certain times of the day (in particular, calcium preparations are recommended to be taken at night). By taking drugs correctly consumers will avoid higher medication costs associated with buying more drugs due to lower efficiency.

Many conditions — in particular liver, heart, and kidney diseases — are highly dependent on lifestyle. Thus, a dose of expensive medication can go to waste because of a wrong lunch choice. Diet and regimen are also a way of treatment, and they have to be strictly observed: otherwise, you risk leaving your money in the pharmacy without any positive health results.

Avoid buying medication in high season

No matter how absurd it may sound in relation to pharmaceuticals, it is better to avoid buying medication in high season. In other words, people with pollen allergy who commonly suffer allergy attacks in spring are advised to buy antihistamine drugs shortly before the pollen season in March-April. Purchasing “seasonal” drugs in advance is cheaper and also won’t play a significant role in terms of expiration date. In the cold season, the demand for antiviral drugs increases, so their prices rise notably during October-November and January-February. To save money on cold and flu remedies, buy them in September: they surely will be useful for the long fall-winter period, and the savings can turn out significant.

When traveling, prepare a first-aid kit in advance

Imagine how much can a simple over-the-counter drug cost you in popular resort areas. The same goes for motion sickness remedies at the airports and bus stations. Moreover, finding a necessary drug abroad may be difficult due to language barriers and difference in products available in the local pharmaceutical market.

Don’t take medication “just in case”

Think twice before purchasing drugs with unproven effectiveness, homeopathic remedies, and health fraud products, since they may not only waste money but also delay proper treatment. For instance, there is a common belief that after antibiotic treatment, probiotics should be taken to regain the natural bacterial flora in the intestines. Consumers should note that probiotics and other widely advertised products have no proven effect and may be useless for therapeutic means. Moreover, digestion doesn’t necessarily deteriorate after taking antibiotics.