Ways to keep the cost of prescription medications low

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Prescriptions medications can either be very expensive or very cheap depending on how you get them.

Through my insurance, I have 2 ways to get prescription medications. I can go through a pharmacy benefit manager (PBM), which is essentially like a mail-order pharmacy, and get a 30-90 day supply that’s very inexpensive compared to the marketplace. Or I can go directly to a traditional pharmacy and have my script filled at sometimes exorbitant prices.  

For example, I have asthma and one script I take is $700 for a 3-month supply. But I only pay $40 through my PBM. That’s a big difference.

On the other hand, when there’s a medication I have to get for a sick family member and we can’t wait for a mail order, I have to go to the pharmacy and suddenly I’m at market price for what seems like a zillion bucks.

One strategy I’ve talked about to cope with the latter scenario is to take the list of $4 discount drugs from any of a number of big-box retailers and drug store chains to your doctor. (See my related links below for more details.) Show the list to your doctor and ask if any of the drugs on the list will work for what ails you. 

Walgreens is now starting to nudge into a market that will give you the opportunity to get 90-day supplies at a PBM kind of price. So you’ll be able to go to a physical store on a moment’s notice and fill a script without having to pay those very high market prices. This could be a real benefit if there’s not a suitable $4 script available to you on any discount list.

This is in early stages for Walgreens, though, so it’s not available yet. So the best answer for today remains to get that discount list and bring it to your doctor. Doctors have no idea what prescriptions cost. So a doc will write a script based on what they think is the best thing for you. But maybe you can find something just about as good that instead of costing $100 will cost you $4. That is a big difference!



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