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  Medication Matters: The Do's and Don'ts of Cutting Drug Costs  
 

Americans are looking to cut expenses wherever possible. For many, that means scrutinizing the cost of medications. If you’re trying to stretch your pharmaceutical dollars, proceed with caution.

When it comes to essential medicines, some cost -cutting strategies are sensible, while others are risky. Here are some quick tips for keeping your drug costs affordable without sacrificing your health and safety.

Embrace generics. Generic versions of many prescription and nonprescription medicines are readily available—and cost 30 to 80 percent less than their brand-name counterparts. Generics are guaranteed to include the identical active ingredients as brand-name drugs and to provide the same therapeutic effects. Rather than asking your doctor or pharmacist, “Does my prescription come in a generic form?” rephrase your inquiry like this: “Is there a generic drug that treats my health condition?” This may prompt the health professional to research a low-cost generic in the same class of drugs as your brand name prescription.

Don’t skip doses. Resist the urge to extend your bottle of pills by taking a lower-than recommended dose. To maximize the protection and healing benefits of your medicine, you must take it exactly as your physician directs. Skimping on doses can worsen your condition or lead to dangerous, costly complications.

Compare prices. The costs of both prescription and nonprescription medications can vary widely from store to store. Make sure you’re getting the best price. When purchasing over-the-counter drugs, look for cheaper store-brand versions of familiar brand-name products.

Get permission to split pills. If your recommended medication dose is 10 mg, your physician may consider prescribing 20 mg pills, which you must slice in half. But take heed: Many pills, tablets, or capsules must be swallowed whole in order to work effectively. Others do not have a shape conducive to easy, accurate splitting. Talk with your physician or pharmacist before taking action.

Don’t keep money worries to yourself. Your physician is your advocate, and it’s OK to explain that affording medication is difficult. Some physicians have free samples so patients can try out new pharmaceuticals before investing in a month’s supply. Your physician may want to review and modify your drug treatment plan, eliminating some medications or suggesting lower-cost alternatives. Likewise, if consulted, your pharmacist or health plan representative may suggest cost-cutting measures, such as prescription discount plans or a reputable, affiliated mail-order pharmacy.

Learn more. The Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA) offers free information online at www.pparx.org or toll-free at 888-477-2669. PPA brings together pharmaceutical companies, physicians, patient advocacy organizations, and community groups to help qualified consumers without prescription coverage afford vital medicines. PPA links patients to more than 475 patient-assistance programs.

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