Save Money on Prescription Drugs

31 October 2014


According to CBC, Canadians spent about 23 billion dollars on prescription medications, which roughly equates to about $667 per person on an annual basis in 2012 to 2013 ($667 per person is the national average across Canada).  British Columbia has the lowest spending across Canada with $511 per capita and Quebec has the highest spending, with $820 per person being spent on an annual basis on prescription medications alone.   I don't know about you, but that's a lot of money and a lot of medications.  Although a lot of the time, we are fighting against faulty genetics when we have to take medications, there are ways in which we can save some money on prescription drugs.  Although we are very lucky in that medications are subsidized by the government according to your income, prescription medications can still be costly.

Here are a few ways to save money the next time you fill your prescription drugs.

Ask your Prescriber for a Higher Dose

One great way to save money on prescription medications according to WebMD is by asking for a higher dose, but of course this only works if your medication is a pill form rather than a capsule form.  For example, for certain costly medications like cholesterol pills come in doses of 40mg and 20mg and 10mg (etcetera etcetera).  These are also the same cost (e.g., the 40mg costs the same as the 20mg tablet).  If you are prescribed a 20mg dose, you can ask your prescriber to write 40mg tablets and to have the pharmacist cut the pill in half (or you can do it, just buy a pill cutter).  This will save you half of what it would normally cost.

Get it Filled All at Once

The key here is to get it dispensed less.  Oftentimes you will get one month's worth of medications and then have to return to the pharmacy to pay for another month, and repeat once more..., but you may be able to get three months worth just by asking.  That's two less trips to the pharmacist and less dispensing fee cost.  Win-win if you ask me!

Go Generic

Another way to save money on prescription medications is to ask if there is a generic version of the medication.  Oftentimes, the pharmacist will usually substitute for a generic option (or ask you if you would like that).  However, one reason why prescribers may be wary of generic medications is that it is often difficult to tell whether there will be the same effect as the brand name medications.  The brand name medications are the ones that are involved in the drug trials and therefore considered more "reliable".  With brand name prescription drugs, you are paying for the marketing, and the research and development costs.

Talk to Your Primary Care Provider and Pharmacist

This is where it pays to get to know your primary care provider.  A lot of the time, doctors are very busy (as we know).  Oftentimes, pharmaceutical companies and drug representatives are busy visiting doctor's offices to provide samples, to provide lunchtime teaching sessions, and to show your primary care provider the most recent novel new drug that is out there.

Oftentimes, these new drugs can be expensive because of the marketing associated with it, because they are brand-name and not generic.  Your doctor may know of an alternative that is not so expensive.  All it takes is a discussion and your doctor should be able to suggest an alternative that may work well.  Of course, there are some medications that cannot be substituted for generic, like certain thyroid medications because the composition varies between manufacturers.

Talking to your pharmacist will be helpful too.  Ask what their dispensing fees are.  Dispensing fees vary between pharmacies.  Here in British Columbia, it can vary anywhere from $5 to $12 (that's over 100% of the lower end cost)!

Go Au Naturel

Finally, one of the best ways to save money on prescription drugs (especially drugs for cholesterol, high blood pressure, or other chronic conditions that can be improved with lifestyle changes) is to change your lifestyle.  Oftentimes we think it is easier to "pop a pill" rather than make lifestyle changes, but changing your lifestyle for the better is so much more rewarding and effective (no side effects!).  Watch this video for some inspiration by Doctor Mike Evans, titled "23 and a half hours".

Bargainmoosers, do you have any tips on how to save money on prescription medications?

Photo credit: Mattza

1 comment

  • Allyson
    Forks over Knives is a great documentary to watch too. It's on Netflix

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