Drug prices can be a real nightmare in America but there are important options available for people who are struggling to afford medications or just want to save money. On this page we present you with many helpful tips on how to afford medication. We recommend that you first search for domestic options to afford your medication, but if you can’t afford it then buying medication safely from outside the U.S. is a smart alternative.
Most medications prescribed in the U.S. are available as generic medications, which are almost always lower cost than the brand, and often 90% less. In fact, over 80% of medications dispensed are now generic drugs.
In the U.S., generic drugs often cost less than in Canada and many other countries as well. However, generic drug prices within the U.S. are different from pharmacy to pharmacy, with some medications costing 90% less at one pharmacy than another neighboring pharmacy. Shop around to get the lowest price.
Since 2006, large retail chains have offered very low cost prescription medications, often for $4/month or $10/three month. These programs are often referred to as $4 generic drug programs. Similar programs sell medications at slightly higher prices, such as $5/month, instead of $4, or $12/three month instead of $10. Some large retailers give away medications for free, such as commonly prescribed antibiotics and blood pressure drugs.
NeedyMeds.com has an excellent portal for finding these programs searching by states.
These U.S. online pharmacies are known to have very competitively low generic drug prices and are approved for safety by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy VIPPS program and/or PharmacyChecker.com
Prescription drug discount cards are used to obtain lower prices than the regular cash price and sometimes lower than you would pay using your insurance at the pharmacy. There are free discount cards available that work at most chain and independent pharmacies. The savings on brand name drugs is usually very small, between 5-15% but on generic the savings can be huge, closer to 70% off the cash price.
Prescription Justice Action Group offers you a free prescription discount card to use at most pharmacies nationwide. Click here to print your own discount card or bring the image of the card to your local pharmacy when you fill your next prescription.
The card offered by PJAG will not necessarily get you the lowest prices. There are several pharmacy benefit companies offering these cards who work with dozens of marketing companies throughout the country to distribute them. We recommend you obtain a few of them to show at the pharmacy and see which one obtains the lowest price.
Many chain pharmacies offer their own cards in the form of pharmacy memberships for a small annual fee.
The most expensive drugs are usually brand name medications that are still on patent, in particular specialty medications and cancer drugs. Pharmaceutical companies have created programs to help people who cannot afford such medications. There are usually strict eligibility requirements and many people are simply not eligible. There are three very helpful websites that provide information on who can apply and how to take advantage of these programs.
www.rxassist.org (was created by Volunteers in Health Care, a Brown University Center for Primary Care and Prevention resource)
www.pparx.org (led, in part, by the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America – offers a useful eligibility screening questionnaire)
www.needymeds.org (is a 501(c)(3) national non-profit information resource dedicated to helping people locate assistance programs to help them afford their medications and other healthcare cost)
If you cannot afford your medication domestically, brand or generic, then you should consider importing it but make sure to do it safely. You can compare drug prices among verified international online pharmacies at www.PharmacyChecker.com. Many brand name drugs are 90% less outside the United States. To be eligible for the PharmacyChecker.com Verification Program, online pharmacies must comply with safe standards of practice.
U.S. government officials have stated that individuals who order non-controlled prescription drugs from Canada or other foreign sources (up to a three-month supply) for their own use are not being pursued or prosecuted. No one has ever been prosecuted for importing small quantities of medication for personal use. However, according to the FDA, under most circumstances, it is technically not legal for individuals to import prescription drugs for personal use. The U.S FDA regulates the safety and efficacy of medications sold in U.S. pharmacies. Medications dispensed from pharmacies outside the U.S. are regulated for safety and efficacy by drug regulatory authorities in other countries.
Watch Marcia Crosse, PhD, director for the Health Care Team at the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) explain FDA’s personal drug importation policies.