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  • 3-Minute Article
  • |
  • Mar 09, 2018

7 Tips to Save on Prescription Drugs

Help cut the cost of medical expenses in retirement with these strategies.

Created in Collaboration with Kiplinger.

Prescription medicines are now one of the fastest-growing costs today. In 2018, Americans over age 65 will see the price of prescription drugs increase by 7.5%. That figure represents a rate that is rising faster than wages and the cost of living.1

Healthcare is one of only a few expenses to increase during retirement.2 Preparing for these costs – and taking steps to make them more affordable– can help reduce medical expenses in retirement.

1. Shop Smart

Prices can vary widely between pharmacies– even within the same zip code. Call around, check online resources to price-compare, or ask for price matching at a favorite pharmacy. GoodRx.com’s website and mobile app, for example, searches lowest prices by neighborhood for every FDA-approved prescription drug at 70,000 U.S. pharmacies.

Prescription Drug Price Hike

2. Pick Generics Over Brand Names

Nearly nine in 10 prescriptions filled in the U.S. today are for generic drugs.3 That’s because, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, generics are the same as brand-name medicines in dosage, safety, effectiveness, and strength,4 and they offer an average of 30% to 85% savings over their brand-name counterparts. Plus, some health plans have a $0 co-pay for “preferred” generics.

To find the generic version of a brand-name medicine, try steps like these:

  • Ask your pharmacist or doctor for generic options.
  • Search your insurer’s online drug list or app.
  • Look up generic equivalents with the FDA’s Orange Book.
  • Check the FDA’s First Generics List for very recent generic approvals.

3. Consider Therapeutic Substitutions

If a drug has no generic equivalent, patients can ask their doctors if there are less expensive alternatives (brand name or generic) to treat the same condition. These “therapeutic alternatives” aren’t exact chemical replicas of the brand-name drugs they replace, but they work in similar ways. Example: Pantoprazole is a generic drug that is a therapeutic alternative to Protonix, a brand-name prescription medicine used to treat stomach acid.

who currrently takes Prescription drug

4. Use a Preferred Pharmacy

Most Medicare Part D prescription-drug plans – and many pre-65 health plans – now include a preferred pharmacy with lower cost-sharing. Before picking a plan, make sure any local preferred pharmacies are convenient. Another option? Search for plans that include a specific pharmacy.

5. Rely on Mail-Order and Extended Quantities

Mail-order pharmacy programs operate through your insurer’s pharmacy benefit manager, which buys in bulk directly from drug makers. That translates into lower costs – and may be especially beneficial for any drugs taken on a regular basis. Similarly, 90-day supplies offer significant savings and convenience over 30-day quantities.

Out-of-Pocket Costs Plunge with Mail-Order Delivery

6. Challenge Coverage Denial

Healthcare plan coverage for pricier drugs is sometimes denied because the medications aren’t on the plan’s formulary (a tiered list of approved medicines). If coverage is denied for a prescribed drug, check to see if the only roadblock is pre-authorization paperwork that the patient or doctor can complete. Regardless, there’s also likely to be a covered alternative (often at lower cost).

7. Ask for Free Samples

Pharmaceutical representatives often leave brand-name samples with doctors, and there are wise reasons to ask if they’re available: They may be used to test how a new long-term medication is tolerated before purchasing an entire month’s worth, and for a short course of treatment, a sample pack may be all that’s needed.

Plan Now to Prepare for Health Costs in Retirement

Talk to your financial advisor about the right mix of financial strategies to help you confidently prepare for medical costs in retirement. To learn more about other potential health expenses, read 6 Retirement Healthcare Costs to Prepare for Now.

Kiplinger has an in-house content studio, which reports on investing, retirement planning and wise money management for its partner organizations, providing trustworthy advice and guidance for their readers.