Prescription costs are an issue for almost every American, but people with diabetes know just how quickly they can pile up: insulin, other medications, test strips … . Your everyday needs can cost a pretty penny. You may have insurance that covers some or even most of your needs, but every cent counts. So we went to the source—pharmacists—to learn what steps you can take to save your scratch at the pharmacy counter. Here are some of their best recommendations to help you save—while staying healthy.
1. Build a relationship with your pharmacist.
Talking with your pharmacist about the medications you’re picking up, other prescription drugs you take, any side effects you’ve experienced, and more can help him or her better serve you. Robert Michocki, PharmD, BCPS, suggests bringing a list of all the doctors you’re seeing and each medication they’ve prescribed. Pharmacists, he says, can make sure there’s no overlap or drug interactions that are being lost in the shuffle. Avoiding those conflicts can save both your wallet and your health. Don’t be shy to speak up. “You do need to learn how to be your own best advocate,” says Craig Williams, PharmD. “Our interactions with patients are pretty limited, but they’re taking care of themselves every day.”
2. Check about different medication options.
Stuart Haines, PharmD, says older medications can often be just as effective as newer ones when it comes to treating diabetes. Because they’ve been on the market for longer, they can often be cheaper. “The newer the medication, the more expensive it tends to be,” Haines says. Older drugs often have low-cost generic versions, so check with your pharmacist about those options, too.
3. Ask about patient assistance programs.
Your pharmacist may know about drugmakers’ programs that help patients who meet financial eligibility criteria save on their prescriptions. Renee Koski, PharmD, says websites such as rxassist.org can identify which of your prescription medications might be part of such a program. Your pharmacist or other member of your diabetes care team can help you fill out the necessary forms. If you qualify, the company will either mail you your prescription or you can pick it up with a patient assistance or prescription assistance program card. The pharmacy will then bill the drug company for your prescription. “It’s not hurting the pharmacy, and you can help your patient,” Koski says.
4. Research your insurance company’s preferred prescription drug plan.
Every year, health insurance providers publish a list of preferred products that patients can order with a reduced co-pay. Within each category or class of products, there might be three or four different options at different prices. Talk to your doctor about what works best for you. “The same applies to supplies, like syringes, monitors, and strips,” says Haines. “There are often lower-cost alternatives available, depending on your insurance, that you should research before you buy.”
5. Store your prescriptions properly.
Keeping medication in a moist bathroom can make it less effective—meaning your doctor may prescribe a higher dose or add another medication, says Koski. Storing medications and test strips in a cool, dry place makes them last, which keeps you from having to reorder sooner than needed. And examine your delivery system: If you take only a small dose of insulin, an insulin pen might be the way to go. That way, you might not be throwing out most of a vial of insulin at the end of the month. That could add up to savings, Koski says, over the long term.
Ways to Save
The American Diabetes Association can be a resource for finding patient assistance programs that offer low-cost or no-cost medications and supplies. Visit diabetes.org/rxassist to begin your search, or call 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383).