5 Ways I Slashed My Drug Costs up to 50%

A pharmacist talks to a customer about a medication at a pharmacy
Photo by wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock.com

If there were karate belts for saving money on medication, I’d have a black belt.

I started my training early in life, having been raised by a doctor with a pharmacology background and a medical office manager.

I’ve also spent years on both sides of the medical fence, as a patient and a health care worker. I’ve had to pay for medical expenses while insured and while uninsured.

Along the way, I’ve learned and used just about every trick in the book for reducing prescription drug expenses. The following tips have served me best.

1. Pay with a discounted gift card

This is my favorite way to shave money off my prescription drug copays.

I primarily get my household’s medications at CVS these days, as it’s our nearest pharmacy. So, I buy CVS gift cards for less than their face value and pay for medications with those cards.

I buy the cards from marketplaces like Raise. These websites enable folks with unwanted gift cards to sell them to others, albeit for less than they are worth. That enables savvy shoppers to nab gift cards for less than their face value.

I can generally get CVS gift cards for about 15% off. So, when I pay for medications with one, I basically get the medications for 15% off.

2. Pay with a rewards credit card

Can’t or don’t want to pay with a discounted gift card? If you have a rewards credit card that you pay off in full every month to avoid interest charges, pay with that instead.

Or, better yet, pay for discounted gift cards with a rewards credit card — that’s what I do.

Some folks like travel rewards cards. My household is all about our cash-back credit cards. We earn 1.5% to 2% back on our gift card and pharmacy purchases.

If you don’t have a credit card that you love, use a free online resource like Money Talks News’ credit card comparison tool to help you find one.

3. Shop around

Your nearest brick-and-mortar drugstore is just one of many pharmacies through which you could buy your prescriptions.

In fact, traditional drugstore pharmacies tend to charge higher prices than other pharmacies. That’s based on my experiences shopping around and has been echoed by independent analyses like the one we covered in “The Cheapest Pharmacy for Prescriptions Might Surprise You.”

So, comparing different pharmacies’ prices for your medications is imperative to ensure you are getting the best possible price.

Pick up the phone to find out the prices of pharmacies in your local big-box stores, grocery stores and warehouse clubs. You generally do not need to be a member of a chain like Costco or Sam’s Club to use their pharmacies.

Then, go online. Try out free comparison-shopping tools like those we detail in “5 Websites to Check Before Buying Prescription Drugs.”

4. Pay out of pocket

When calling around for prices, be sure to ask each pharmacy for its cash price — the price you would pay for a drug if you did not have insurance or if you did not use your insurance to pay for the drug.

Sometimes a pharmacy’s cash price for a particular drug is less than you would pay for the same drug with insurance. The cash price could even be less than your copay would be for the same drug.

This is particularly true of generic drugs. Many pharmacies, including those at big-box stores and supermarkets, offer a 30-day supply of various generic medications for as little as $4, and a 90-day supply for $10.

I currently have health insurance but pay out-of-pocket for two medications for this reason. If I bought those drugs through my insurance, I’d pay a $20 copay for a 90-day supply. But when I buy them out-of-pocket, I get a 90-day supply for $10.

So, on those two medications, I save 50% by paying out-of-pocket.

5. Compare strength prices

Sometimes, the per-milligram cost of a medication varies depending on the pill strength. This means you might be able to save money by buying a different strength and splitting pills.

Let’s take the brand-name cholesterol drug Crestor for example. Ideally, you’d talk to your doctor about generic alternatives, but I’m using it to illustrate a point.

At the time this article was written, HealthWarehouse, an online pharmacy based in the U.S. that I’ve used in the past, was selling a 30-day supply of Crestor for $324 — no matter what pill strength you buy.

So, let’s say you bought a 30-day supply of the 10-milligram strength pill. You’d pay $324 for a total of 300 milligrams worth of Crestor. That’s $1.08 per milligram.

But if you bought the 20-milligram pill, you’d pay the same price for 600 milligrams. That’s 54 cents per milligram — 50% cheaper.

This means that if you take 10 milligrams a day of Crestor, for example, you could save 50% by buying 20-milligram pills and splitting them.

If you find you could save significantly by splitting any of your own pills, ask your doctor whether your prescriptions can be split safely. If the doctor says yes, then ask him or her to write your prescription such that the pills can be split. Explain how it would save you money.

What’s your favorite way to save money on prescriptions? Let us know in comments below or on Facebook.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
7 Ways to Save Money Without Trying
7 Ways to Save Money Without Trying

Saving money doesn’t always mean drudgery and sacrifice. These tools make it easy — sometimes even fun.

21 Thrift Store Gems You Can Cash In On
21 Thrift Store Gems You Can Cash In On

Here’s what to look for at that overstuffed thrift store — and how you can make money from it.

How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck in 8 Steps
How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck in 8 Steps

Is your paycheck gone the moment you get it? Here’s how to break that vicious cycle.

3 Ways to Get Paid for Searching the Web
3 Ways to Get Paid for Searching the Web

If you’re already doing it anyway, why not get rewarded for it? Here are three great opportunities.

5 Reasons You Should Not Delay Retirement
5 Reasons You Should Not Delay Retirement

Could you be waiting too long to quit working?

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership
How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership

The warehouse club often has some of the cheapest gas in town. Here’s how you can get it as a nonmember.

10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home
10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home

If you like to keep things simple, avoid these purchases.

A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today
A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today

A few steps can keep your phone from ringing when a spammer calls.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

This iconic dinnerware is prized for everyday use as well as reselling for profit.

This Company Makes the Best Tires in America
This Company Makes the Best Tires in America

Driver satisfaction with tires is at an all-time high, but one brand stands out.

This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance
This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance

One type of pain is especially associated with cognitive decline.

Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?
Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?

Knowing when to claim can help you maximize benefits.

Medicare Will Not Cover These 6 Medical Costs
Medicare Will Not Cover These 6 Medical Costs

Don’t let these health care expenses catch you off guard in retirement.

Beware This Hidden Ingredient in Rotisserie Chicken
Beware This Hidden Ingredient in Rotisserie Chicken

Something foul may lurk in those delicious, ready-to-eat birds.

8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon
8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon

The giant retailer shines when it comes to these things, from basics to hard-to-find specialty goods.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food
5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food

Anyone can take advantage of these resources.

Never Buy These 10 Things on Amazon
Never Buy These 10 Things on Amazon

Just because you can purchase something on Amazon doesn’t mean that you should.

7 Big Purchases You Should Never Make
7 Big Purchases You Should Never Make

Sometimes a big-ticket purchase is nothing more than a big waste of money.

5 States With the Worst Health Care for Retirees
5 States With the Worst Health Care for Retirees

All of these states are located in the same region of the nation.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

5 Products You Should Never Buy Generic
5 Products You Should Never Buy Generic

Sometimes the brand-name version is clearly superior.

6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home
6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home

Stashing money around the house is anything but harmless.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.