by Lisa Zamosky
Drug prices, like everything but your salary, are going up. According to a 2009 article in the Wall Street Journal, the prices for about a dozen of the most popular brand name drugs increased by double digits in the first quarter of 2009 from just one year before – this, in the midst of the worst economic crisis we’ve seen since the Great Depression!
As a result of growing pharmaceutical costs, which have outpaced inflation, the Kaiser Family Foundation found in a survey conducted last year that 30 percent of Americans did not fill a prescription for medicine and 20 percent were cutting pills in half or skipping doses. I expect those numbers are even higher today with unemployment rates topping 10% and health insurance benefits going away for so many people.
Many people delay a trip to the doctor or a medical procedure out of a need to save money. Not great, but most often not life threatening. However, skimping on doses of medication you take to manage a chronic condition can quickly become dangerous. Still, so many people today are faced with steep drug prices and diminishing wages, making it very difficult to continue to pay for needed medications.
Times are tough, but fortunately there are a number of ways to cut costs on prescription drugs, including accessing programs aimed at offering those in need free or reduced cost prescriptions. If you’re struggling to pay for your medications, here are a few ways you may be able to catch a break.
1. Shop Around Prices for prescription drugs vary widely among pharmacies, which means comparing prices can make a big difference in your out-of-pocket expenses. A great way to make sure you’re getting the best price on your medications is to check sites like www.pharmacychecker.com. You can compare prices from one pharmacy to another, and the site offers a system that rates each pharmacy on a number of criteria.
2. Wal-Mart $4 Prescriptions If you take generic medications you can pick-up a 30-day supply of your prescriptions at Wal-Mart for just $4 (the program doesn’t apply to brand-name drugs). Wal-Mart offers more than 350 different types of generic medications with this program. You can call your local store or check online at: http://www.walmart.com/4prescriptions to make sure the drug you need is on the list.
3. TogetherRx Access Individuals earning less than $45,000 a year and who do not have Medicare or insurance coverage for prescription drugs may be eligible for the TogetherRx Access program, which can save you as much as 25 to 40 percent on brand-name drugs. You can sign up for this program online at: http://www.togetherrxaccess.com/Tx/jsp/about_how.jsp, or by calling 1-800-444-4106.
4. Prescription Assistance You’ve likely seen Montel Williams on television advertising this program offered by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. PhRMA brings together big pharmaceutical companies, doctors and community groups to help people in financial need fill prescriptions for free or at low cost. If you’re eligible, you’ll be connected to a public or private drug plan program that will meet your particular needs. Check out the details at www.helpingpatients.org or by calling 888-477-2669.
5. Pharmaceutical Company Help If you don’t already know, it’s worth finding out which pharmaceutical company makes the particular medication you take. Many of the big pharmaceutical companies, such as Merck, Abbot and Pfizer, offer programs to make the medications they manufacture available to patients at either no or low cost. Check the website of the company producing your prescription medication to determine your eligibility and to fill out an application.
Lisa Zamosky is a writer specializing in healthcare, and a former executive who worked for years in the health insurance industry. Visit her online at Writtenarts.com. E-mail Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Lisa on Twitter: Twitter.com/lzam