Diabetes Forecast

Saving Money On Medications

Cut your Rx costs with these tips

By Robert Calandra , , ,


With insurance deductibles and co-pays rising for some prescription medications and supplies, staying healthy is becoming more expensive for people with diabetes. But there are ways to trim costs without skimping on necessities.

Start by being proactive and candid with your providers. Let your doctor, pharmacist, and diabetes educator know if there was an unexpected increase in your co-pay or if you need help paying for your prescriptions and supplies. They might point you toward free samples, discount coupons, and vouchers offered by pharmaceutical companies and device manufacturers.

Read on for other cost-cutting tips.

Surf for Special Offers

Jerry Meece, CDE, RPh, FACA, a pharmacist in Gainesville, Texas, recommends that you develop a relationship with your pharmacist and go online to find discount options. (Be sure to check the meds you find online with your doctor before buying.) Search “save money on medications” to find drug promotions, says Meece.

The Partnership for Prescription Assistance (pparx.org) and Simplefill (simplefill.com) offer reduced and sometimes free medications to people who are not part of a private or government insurance plan but who prove financial need, based on annual income. Medicare recipients can get help paying for their medications at medicare.gov/pharmaceutical-assistance-program

For a searchable database of prescription assistance programs, check out Rx Assist (rxassist.org) and Needy Meds (needymeds.org). You can also sign up for a free Needy Meds discount card—present it to the pharmacist and save money on prescription drugs.

Dig for Rebates

Some pharmaceutical companies offer coupons and vouchers, says Eric Johnson, MD, an associate professor and director of interprofessional education at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

It’s best to get a coupon from the manufacturer’s website or from a trusted source, such as your doctor’s office. Websites like RxPharmacyCoupons.com and Rebates.com are among those offering coupons. Ask your pharmacy whether it accepts these.

Find Out About Formularies

If you have private health insurance or Medicare, make sureyour plan’s formulary—the list of prescription generic and brand-name drugs covered by your plan—includes your medications before signing up. Otherwise, you may want to switch plans during your insurer’s open enrollment season. It’s not unusual for different plans offered by the same company to have varying formularies. Even if your medications are included, dig a little deeper—formularies have different tiers and levels that determine how much you’ll pay.

Each health insurance plan might have up to four tiers of prescription drug coverage. Generally, the first and least-expensive tier pays for generics, while the second tier includes brand-name drugs. The third tier covers non-preferred brand-name medications, while the fourth and most expensive is for specialty drugs.

Ask your pharmacist for help understanding what is covered by your plan’s formulary, says Craig Williams, PharmD, a professor of pharmacy at Oregon Health and Science University’s College of Pharmacy.

Cut Co-Pays

Most pharmacy benefit plans allow people to switch to a 90-day supply, which could be cheaper than shelling out money for three 30-day co-pays, says Johnson. Some plans have a lower co-pay for a 90-day supply purchased through a mail-order pharmacy instead of a local pharmacy.

Generic drugs also offer out-of-pocket savings. The Food and Drug Administration ensures generics are just as effective as their brand-name counterparts. Sometimes, Williams says, the generic version of a drug is identical to the brand-name drug—many even come from the same factory. How much can generics save you? Consider this: Meece says the total cost (not out of pocket) for pioglitazone, a generic version of the type 2 medication Actos, is $27.90 for a 30-day supply of the 30-milligram pills. That’s far less than the $228.79 cost for the brand name. Talk with your provider to see if a generic drug may be right for you. 

Save on Supplies

People with a proven financial needcan save on supplies. For instance, RX Outreach (rxoutreach.org) partners with Prodigy, a meter and strip manufacturer, to provide supplies to those earning less than $35,310 a year. CR3 Diabetes Association (cr3diabetes.org) offers refurbished pumps and discounted test strips for uninsured or underinsured people with a household income of less than $60,000 a year. The National Council on Aging (benefitscheckup.org) provides information on savings programs for older adults with limited income.

You can also save money with smart swaps, such as switching from a brand-name meter to a store-brand version. You may be able to buy two store-brand boxes of test strips for about the price of one brand-name box. Meece also suggests going to the American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Expo (diabetes.org/in-my-community) and local fairs to score free samples and pick up tips from other people with diabetes about how they save money on drugs and supplies.

“You might be surprised what little nuggets you can pick up that you haven’t thought of,” Meece says. “Everybody has come up with an idea that works for them and saves them money.”   



Take the Type 2
Diabetes Risk Test