Other Tips on Paying for Prescription Drugs


Person Getting Pill

Prescription drugs can be expensive. The Medicare Prescription Drug Plan - Part D is available to help older adults cover these costs. However, there may be times that Part D will not pay for needed medications. For those times, it is helpful to know ways to cut costs.


Consider these cost saving tips:


The Graedon's People's Pharmacy offers information called "Saving Money on Medicine". Send $1.00 along with a long, stamped, self-addressed envelope to:

Graedon's People's Pharmacy
No. Z-2
P.O. Box 52027
Durham, NC 27717-2027




Comparison shop. Pharmacies differ on their charges for prescriptions.



Ask your doctor about generic drugs.



Prescriptions can also be ordered through online pharmacies. Some sites have you fill out a medical questionnaire and then they write you a prescription based on your answers. Some require a valid prescription from your own Doctor. Be sure to thoroughly investigate how the site works. And be aware that in some states, North Carolina being one, it is illegal for the online site to prescribe for you. Use your search engine to find online pharmacy sites.

Some mail order and/or online companies offer substantial savings. Be sure to factor in shipping and handling. Also, be sure to check into the company you buy from.

  • How are the drugs stored?
  • How long before they ship?
  • How do they ship?
  • Will your drugs get too hot or cold?
  • Where do the drugs come from?

Be an alert consumer and you can save on price without sacrificing quality.



You may consider ordering your prescriptions from outside of the United States. Due to trade laws and lower manufacturing costs, prices for drugs can be significantly less expensive. Again, buyer beware. Carefully check into the company and how they handle business (especially storage and shelf-life of the drugs). What is your recourse if something goes wrong? Non-U.S. pharmacies may re-label drugs, sell expired pills, or sell counterfeit pills. Always use a reputable pharmacy if you choose to purchase outside the U.S. Remember, drugs sold in the U.S. are FDA approved. Drugs sold from another country are not (though they may be the same drug).

The FDA does not recommend importing drugs from outside the U.S. Here is an excerpt from their guidelines.

"For example, a person may decide that his or her FDA approved heart medication is cheaper in Mexico, and attempt to import the unapproved version of the drug from Mexico. FDA cannot assure that such products have been properly manufactured and are effective; therefore, given that such products are available in the U.S., their use would present an unreasonable risk and the guidance would not apply (unless the person seeking their importation could establish that the drugs were needed to refill a prescription while traveling or were otherwise needed while traveling).

Likewise, a drug such as Valium is available in the U.S. and, as such, a foreign-made version of the U.S. approved drug would not generally be considered a candidate to be permitted entry under the guidance. "


"We appreciate that there is a significant cost differential between drugs available here and those in other countries. However, many drugs sold in foreign countries as "foreign versions" of approved prescription drugs sold in the United States are often of unknown quality with inadequate directions for use and may pose a risk to the patient's health. FDA approves a drug on the basis of scientific data proving it to be safe and effective. FDA approved labeling provides information on how and when the drug can be used to maximize effectiveness and minimize any harmful side effects. The manufacturing facilities and procedures for approved products are also carefully regulated by FDA to ensure product integrity. Since FDA cannot assure the consumer that the drug purchased in the foreign country would be the same product his or her physician's prescription is written for, we recommend the product covered by the prescription be acquired in the United States. "

Therefore, it is highly recommended that you access the websites below and read the information thoroughly before making a drug purchase outside the U.S. You will then know the laws, your rights, and possible dangers before making a choice.

Another interesting development related to this issue is that UnitedHealth Group Inc., the health insurer for AARP's purchased drug benefit, has decided that they will reimburse participants for prescriptions filled abroad. Insurance policies usually cover drugs bought abroad if a person is traveling there and has forgotten medicine or becomes ill while traveling. However, many insurers do not reimburse for prescriptions purchased abroad if not traveling.

The FDA appends to and changes rulings from time to time. There is a lot of discussion about purchasing medications out of the country. Check with the FDA before purchasing to see what the latest rules and regulations are regarding the legality of making such a purchase.



Consider insurance with a supplemental drug policy.


The Seniors' Health Insurance Information Program can provide information about Medicare supplement policies. Again, buyer beware. Consult with a trained SHIIP volunteer and research the company and supplemental drug policies in general to determine if this is right for you. Supplement programs now tend to cover drugs not covered within the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan's "donut hole". With the new health care reform, this will be changing.



Check your medical insurance policy to see what is covered. If you have an HMO plan, your medication may be covered. You may have a maximum out-of-pocket expense. Know what is covered.



Ask your pharmacy if they offer a Senior Citizen's Discount or a Discount Pharmacy Card .



Check with your local aging agency (find them through your Area Agency on Aging) about their "Brown Bag Program". In this program, a local pharmacist volunteers to check all your prescriptions for interactions. They may alert you to drugs that you may not need and should revisit with your doctor. You may be purchasing drugs you no longer need or that are inappropriate to be taking together with other medications.





A Quick Summary from NeedyMeds


NeedyMeds is a 501(3)(c) non-profit with the mission to make information about patient pharmaceutical assistance programs available to low-income patients and their advocates at no cost and without having to sign-in or join.

  1. Talk to your doctor. Not being able to afford medications is nothing to be embarrassed about. Your doctor wants to know everything that affects your healthcare, including whether or not you can pay for your medications. If the price means you may not fill your prescriptions and take your medicine, then it is important to be honest about this with your doctor. There may be a cheaper generic drug or a similar medicine that you can take, but your doctor may not consider these unless you explain that you cannot pay for the more expensive drug. Your doctor may also have samples of your medicine that he can give you at no cost.
  2. Shop around. Studies have shown that prices can vary a substantial amount from pharmacy to pharmacy. Surprisingly, a medicine may be cheaper at one pharmacy than at another. As much as you may like to have everything at one store and may like a particular pharmacist, shop around to help lower your prescription medicine costs. You should ask your pharmacy if it can match the lower price. You can also ask the pharmacist for part of the prescription if there is the possibility that the side effects will mean you cannot take this drug. Ask your pharmacist if you can fill the rest of the prescription at no extra cost if the prescription works for you.
  3. Consider buying online. Buying medications online may work for you, but be very cautious. You can look on the pharmacy's website for a seal of approval such as the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites. You can also check with the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy to see if the web pharmacy is licensed and good standing. The seals for these organizations are below.

    Do not buy from sites that will sell prescription medicines without prescriptions. If it's too good to be true, it probably isn't true - don't send money or a credit card number. Also be careful to check out drug interactions (how two drugs, taken at the same time, can cause a new symptom), which is something your local pharmacist and the online pharmacy should do for you.
  4. Look for $4.00 Generics. Wal-Mart, Sam's Club and Target offer generic medicine for $4.00 per prescription fill or refill. Walgreens and other pharmacies are considering meeting this price. Be aware that not all generic drugs are offered through these programs and some local pharmacies have been offering the drugs, on the lists, at a similar price. Some critics say that this pricing is a "bait and switch" tactic because many of the drugs on the lists are older generics that are rarely used. For example, Wal-Mart hopes people who can't get their medication for $4.00 may buy it at the higher price then shop at the store before leaving. Prices are subject to change without notice, as well.
  5. Consider Canada. A rider on a recent Homeland Security spending bill makes it legal for a U.S. citizen to bring medicine across the border. The Customs and Border Protection agency has stopped seizing shipments of medicine from Canada and will now concentrate on intercepting counterfeit drugs and narcotics from overseas.
  6. Study your medical benefits carefully. If you have health insurance, know what is covered and whether or not there is a limit to the total amount of coverage each year. You can get help with insurance questions through a SHIIP (Senior Health Insurance Information Program).
  7. Look for Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs). If you have a low income checkout these programs. PAPs provide low-cost or free medication for those who qualify. Remember to look for all your medicines, not just the most expensive.
  8. Check out Assistance for Specific Diseases and Conditions. Some organizations offer help with a variety of medical expenses, ranging from insurance co-pay assistance to medical supplies. These programs are listed by particular ailment and are sometimes limited to specific geographic areas.



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