How to talk to your doctor about drug costs

Like many people, you may not know how much a prescription will cost until you get to the pharmacy. When you pick it up, you may be shocked by the high price.

Your doctor may prescribe a drug without knowing how much it will cost or if insurance will cover it. That’s why it’s smart to talk to your doctor if you think your medication is too expensive.

“When prescribing certain medications, your doctor may not be thinking about high prescription costs,” says Kyle Manera, director of Co-Immunity, a patient organization for people with chronic conditions in Wichita, KS. Unless you bring it up, she says, you may end up with a prescription that costs more than you expect.

How your doctor can save money

In a recent survey, about 67% of people who talked to their doctor about prescription costs said they found a cheaper drug.

“Doctors can help by prescribing generic versions of the drugs, 90-day supplies or larger doses that can be divided into appropriate doses,” says Manera. “They may also know about different pharmaceutical programs that help lower the cost of prescriptions.”

Here are some ways your doctor can help keep your costs down.

Prescribe generic medicine. Ask your doctor to prescribe a generic form if one is available for the medicine you require. Generics contain the same active ingredients as brand-name drugs. And like brand-name drugs, they are regulated by the FDA.

Using a generic formulation can save you a lot of money. It can cost up to 80% less than the brand-name version of the same drug.

Change the dose. The price of some pills may be the same regardless of the dose. Ask your doctor if it’s okay to pay for a higher dose, then split the pills in two. For example, if your doctor recommends 25 milligrams a day, ask if they can prescribe 50 milligrams and take half a pill a day. Many pills are even designed with a notch to help distribute them evenly.

That’s not always a good idea for every recipe, says Manera. Some medications, such as those with time-release formulas, do not work the same way if you split the pills. Always clarify this with your doctor first.

Change your medication. Ask your doctor if there is a similar, cheaper drug available that does the same thing as the more expensive one. Different drugs that treat the same disease can have very different costs.

You may be able to do without certain medications. In a 2017 survey, 70% of people who discussed prescription costs with their doctor were able to get off at least one of their medications. But never stop taking a prescribed medication without first talking to your doctor.

Ask for a 90-day supply. One of the best ways to save money is to order a 90-day supply of medication. You often pay less per serving when you buy larger quantities. This tactic can work well for a drug that you take long-term.

“Buying a 90-day supply might be a little more up front, but it can save you a lot of money over 3 months,” says Manera.

You can try a mail-order pharmacy that delivers a 90-day supply right to your home. Some retail pharmacies also offer a 90-day supply option.

You can save time by visiting fewer pharmacies.

Use coupons. Ask your doctor if you have a coupon available. Doctors often receive coupons from drug manufacturers. They can be for name-brand prescription drugs or over-the-counter drugs.

How to talk to your doctor about prescription costs

According to a recent survey, most doctors do not discuss prescription costs with their patients. If you don’t usually talk to your doctor about drug costs, you may need to start the conversation.

You may feel awkward or awkward at first. If your meetings are rushed, you feel like you don’t have enough time. But talking about your concerns, especially if you’re struggling with prescription costs, will help them understand your needs and provide you with better care.

“Medical providers are there to help, not to judge,” says Manera. More affordable medications can help you stay on track and stay healthy.

Make a plan to bring up the topic of drug costs before your visit.

“Bring an agenda or list of concerns to the appointment to talk about anything you’re worried about, including prescription costs,” says Manera.

Ask your doctor to review your current prescriptions and see if there are ways you can save money. Let them know if any of your medications are not covered by your insurance plan or if reimbursement is unaffordable.

Ask questions such as:

  • Do you know the price of this medicine?
  • Should I continue taking the medication I am currently taking?
  • Do I need the new medicine you prescribed?
  • Is there a cheaper drug that works just as well?
  • Is there a generic version of this drug?
  • Do you have a coupon for this drug?
  • Can you prescribe a drug that has a coupon and works just as well?
  • Do you have samples of this medicine?
  • Can I get a higher dose of this medicine and then cut it in half?
  • Can you write a 90 prop?

By saving money, your doctor can help you stay healthy.


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