Prices for medications may fluctuate from one pharmacy to another, even within the same ZIP code. Therefore, you might be able to save money on your prescription by comparing prices.
“Prescription and over-the-counter medication prices vary, depending on where you go,” says Kyle Manera, the chief operating officer of Co-Immunity, an organization in Wichita, KS, for people with chronic illnesses.
Even if you use insurance, your out-of-pocket cost may differ, depending on where and how you buy your medications.
Are All Pharmacies the Same?
Every pharmacy, whether local, a chain, or an online operation, has its own markup on drugs. Prices differ based on their markup, the brand of the medication, and quantity ordered.
Your insurance plan may require you to use its “preferred” pharmacy, but even if you have insurance that covers medications, you may be able to find a lower price by shopping around.
How to Get the Best Prices
Try these strategies for finding the best price on your over-the-counter and prescription medication:
Call around. You can save time and money by calling different pharmacies to find out your out-of-pocket prescription cost ahead of time.
“Some, like GoodRx and WebMDRx, also offer coupon cards you can use for extra discounts.”
Use price-compare tools. There are a lot of good apps out there that can help you find the best prices,” Manera says.
Apps and websites like GoodRx, RxSaver, WebMDRx, and SingleCare help you compare the price of a medication at different pharmacies.
Try an online pharmacy. Some online pharmacies have pre-negotiated prices that can save you money. They may deliver your medication through the mail or offer local pickup.
Check mail-order prices before you order. Some insurance plans recommend using a specific mail-order pharmacy, but they don’t always have the best prices. Using a mail-order pharmacy will sometimes save you money, but not always.
Compare prices with and without insurance Your insurance plan may save you money on prescriptions, but insurance doesn’t always get you the best price. Because of deductibles and copays, you might get a better deal by buying your meds directly.
But be careful when skipping insurance. The amount you pay may not be counted toward your insurance deductible or maximum out-of-pocket, unless you can submit these expenses manually to prove you paid them. Contact your insurance company’s customer service department to see how to submit your receipts.
Look for coupons. Some drugmakers offer discounts on expensive medications. Try searching for manufacturer coupons on their websites. You can also ask your doctor if they have any coupons you can use.
Try a drug discount card. You may be able to save money with a free drug savings card. Cards like GoodRx, WebMDRx, and NeedyMeds can lower your prescription costs up to 85%.
Buy in bulk. “If you’re going to take medication for a long time, it makes sense to get 3-6 months’ worth of medication,” Chotalia says.
For prescriptions, check with your insurance provider about the maximum supply of a drug they’ll cover at one time, then ask your doctor if they can prescribe in that amount. This may cost more up front but can save you money over time. For over-the-counter drugs, you may find discounts on bulk medications at wholesale clubs like Sam’s and Costco.
Talk to your doctor. Ask your doctor to review your prescription needs. Ask if you can do without any of your prescriptions. Maybe there’s a similar, but lower-cost, drug you can take instead. Or maybe there’s a generic version of the brand-name drug your doctor prescribed.
Talk to your pharmacist. Your pharmacist may be able to save you money by recommending a less expensive drug or by telling you about different pricing options.
Consider a patient assistance program. If you need help to pay for medication, you could get free or low-cost medication through a patient assistance program (PAP) offered by the drugmaker. You can find information on different PAPs at RXAssist.org.