The Prescription Lowdown

by Amy Allen Clark


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Prescription medication is an expense that many families cannot afford. If you do not have an insurance plan that will cover your prescriptions and are a low-income family, then you are not alone. Fortunately, there are programs available to assist you with your medications, but finding them can be a struggle.

For many years, we went without coverage for our prescriptions and it was a very difficult time for our family financially. Making our six hundred dollar a month health insurance payment was enough to sink us and, to add insult to injury, our prescriptions were not included in this unreal price tag. Not having prescription coverage was not an issue for my husband because he was healthy and rarely needed any medication, but that was not the case for myself and my son. The first year of my son's life was filled with illness after illness and, being his mother, I got just about everything my son had along with him. Keeping the two of us healthy and all of the prescriptions that I took on a daily basis added up to a huge chunk of change that our family just did not have. At times, we went without medications or we were at the complete mercy of our doctor and his samples stash.

During this time, I started doing some research on more affordable ways that we could purchase our prescriptions without completely breaking the bank. Through my research, I discovered a few options that would help us afford our medicines while still being able to make our other monthly expenses.

Communicate With Your Doctor

If you are without prescription coverage, it is important to have a good relationship with your doctor. Your doctor can truly be your greatest alley and can help you in a variety of ways.

If your doctor starts you on a new prescription drug, there are a series of questions you can ask to make sure you get the best deal.

Begin by asking your doctor if he has any free samples you can have to try the medication. Explain your insurance situation and see if your doctor will offer you the medication for free. If your doctor does not have any samples for you to take home, ask him if he could call the drug representative from that company to send some samples to you. These drug representatives stop in regularly to restock their supply and are happy to get more clients under their belt. This can be a win-win situation for all the parties involved.

If samples are unavailable, ask your doctor if you can have a "trial prescription," so you can buy fewer of the tablets at first. This can be a good way to find out if a medication will work for you and also to see if you can tolerate any nasty side effects. If the drug does not work for you, you will not have invested in a month's supply that you will be unable to use.

There are also specific questions that you can ask about the medications you are taking. For example, ask your doctor if there is a generic equivalent to the medication you are taking because you are exploring less expensive alternatives. If there are no generic equivalents to this medication, you can also ask about over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Sometimes, there are OTC medications you can take that will achieve the same results as the actual prescription drug.

Another question you can ask is if you could buy a double dosage of the medication, in pill form, and split the tablets in half for your regular dosage. There are many prescriptions you can purchase that can easily be halved. This can result in a fifty-percent savings on your medication.

Your doctor may also know about specific aid from the drug manufacturer. Many prescription companies have programs to give medications to patients who have no way to pay for their prescription drugs. Programs vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but all require your doctor to submit the application for you. Explore this route with your doctor and see what the company requirements are and if this type of aid is available to you and your family.

Finally, check in yearly with your doctor to see if cheaper versions of your medications have become available. Many of us review our bills and insurance policies yearly, so add this to your agenda and you may reap the rewards of a few dollars saved.

Buy Online

Online stores can offer a lot of savings for their customers, particularly Canadian pharmacies where drug prices are much cheaper (savings of up to half on many prescriptions). Whether you buy American or not, you must make sure that you research the company well to ensure that the company is not a fake.

Examples of things to look for are a toll free number, real operators who answer their phone, a physical company address, and a secure website to do your shopping. You will also want to make sure the pharmacy is approved by the organization that governs the state/country where the pharmacy is located.

State Assistance

Make sure to investigate what your state offers in assisting with the cost of your prescription drugs. These programs are typically available to the elderly, disabled, and low-income families. You can obtain information about these programs through your state's website or by calling the office of your state senator or representative.

Additional Resources:

These are a few sites that you can check for additional information, for free, on medical assistance programs:

Needy Meds (needymeds.com) is designed to provide information about patient assistance programs which provide no cost prescription medications to eligible participants.

Rx Outreach (rxassist.org)is a new Patient Assistance Program developed by Express Scripts Specialty Distribution Services, Inc. (ESSDS). The program provides qualified low-income individuals and families with access to generic versions of brand name medications.

Partnership for Prescription Assistance (pparx.org) brings together America's pharmaceutical companies, doctors, other health care providers, patient advocacy organizations and community groups to help qualifying patients who lack prescription coverage get the medicines they need through the public or private program that's right for them. Many will get them free or nearly free. Its mission is to increase awareness of patient assistance programs and boost enrollment of those who are eligible.

Together Rx Access (togetherrxaccess.com) is a card that has been created to help qualified individuals and families without prescription drug coverage to save on brand-name prescription drugs and other prescription products, as well as save on a wide range of generic drugs. This card is available to those who are ineligible for Medicare, have no prescription drug coverage (public or private), and families who meet certain income requirements. This program is only available to legal US residents.

The sites above are your best bet for finding this information, but do not be afraid to ask your doctor, the drug company, or your pharmacy about assistance programs. You will find there are great savings in simply asking and exploring for cheaper alternatives.


Amy Allen Clark is a stay-at-home mother of a three-year-old son and is expecting their second child in December. She is founder and creator of MomAdvice.com (momadvice.com). Her web site is geared towards mothers who are seeking advice on staying organized, living on a budget, and for those seeking work-at-home employment. The author resides in Granger, Indiana and her hobbies include reading, writing, and cooking. Please visit her web site for more information on these various topics for mothers.

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