Many people require prescription drugs — important and potentially lifesaving medications — to function at their best. Yet, prescriptions can be expensive, both with insurance and when a person pays out of pocket.

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Several strategies can help people save money on their prescriptions. These include choosing a quality generic version of the same drug, requesting longer prescriptions for long-term medications, and seeking financial assistance where applicable.

This article outlines ways in which a person can save money on their prescriptions, whether they have insurance or not. It also provides advice on what people can do if they cannot afford medication.

The following tips may help people save money on their medications if they have health insurance.

1. Ask for an insurance formulary

Anyone looking to save money on prescriptions should ask their insurance provider to provide its drug formulary. This list contains all the medications an insurance company will cover.

A drug formulary can be extensive. A person should work with their doctor to explore the formulary and choose the best medications or combination of medications that are both effective and cost efficient.

2. Consider coverage options

A person can shop around for alternative insurance options that cover more extensive medical costs or medications.

An individual should compare the cost of their current plan and medications with the cost of the insurance plan that will provide more coverage for their medications.

If the cost differs enough, some people may consider swapping their insurance coverage to save money.

3. Purchase directly from the insurer

Some insurance drug plans may offer discount prices on medications if a person buys directly from the insurance provider instead of a pharmacy. This may apply to government programs such as:

For example, Medicare Part D plans (prescriptions drug coverage) work with several other insurance types and may provide low cost drug options in some cases.

4. Compare the copay

Some insurance copays for filling a prescription may cost more than simply buying the drug or its generic version out of pocket.

A person can call the pharmacy beforehand to ask the cost of filling the prescription without insurance, then compare this with the cost of a prescription copay. This will help the individual find the best deal.

These tips may reduce medication expenses for people without health insurance.

1. Comparing prices at the pharmacy

Before filling a prescription at a pharmacy, a person can ask the pharmacy for their pricing. Comparing prices between different pharmacies may help a person cut costs, especially if they require the prescription regularly.

Some online services also offer a search tool that allows people to compare drug costs from major pharmacies and identify the best prices.

2. Pharmacy cards

Pharmacy savings cards or member cards may offer points programs, member rewards, or other incentives that could help a person save money on regular prescriptions.

3. Shop online

Online pharmacies may offer a more competitive price for some prescription drugs. Shopping online and comparing the cost of the same drug at several different accredited pharmacies may help a person find the lowest price.

An individual should always buy from a verified online pharmacy that requires a prescription.

Verification programs, such as the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS), offer a digital verification to show that a pharmacy upholds laws and standards. This ensures that consumers get high quality prescription drugs.

4. Look for coupons

Some drug companies offer limited discounts or coupons for their brand-name drugs. However, consumers may need to meet certain requirements. A person can go to the company website to see if they are eligible.

Similarly, some pharmacies may offer coupons, discounts, or other incentives to encourage a person to fill their prescription with that pharmacy.

5. Choose less expensive alternatives

Some brand-name prescription drugs can cost a lot, especially when a person pays out of pocket.

Alternative medications that perform a similar function may cost less.

A person should talk with their doctor about possible medication alternatives. The doctor will need to consider any possible drug interactions or side effects before making a recommendation.

6. Use generic drugs

After a certain time, the formula for a branded drug may become available for generic use. When this happens, other labs can make a similar drug with the same active ingredients.

This means people may receive the same prescription medication but at a much lower cost.

A person should always read the label on generic drugs to check for any additional active ingredients or potential allergens.

If a person is unsure if generic version of their prescription medication exists, they should talk with their doctor or pharmacist.

7. Consider large chain stores

Some large retailers, such as Walmart, Target, and Costco, will stock generic versions of many brand-name drugs. Checking each retailer for a list of available drugs may help a person identify the best priced generic version of the medication they require.

8. Ask a doctor if the medication is still necessary

A person who has taken a particular drug for a long period of time may see an improvement in their condition. In some cases, their doctor may attribute this improvement to certain health and lifestyle changes that the person employed in an effort to improve their health.

A person should talk with their doctor to discuss the possibility that health and lifestyle changes have improved their condition enough to warrant not taking the medication or taking a lower dosage than before. If appropriate, this would help reduce costs.

However, a person should never take a reduced dosage of a medication without first speaking with their doctor.

9. Ask for samples

In some cases, doctors may have the ability to offer complimentary samples of a new medication they recommend. Samples allow a person to see whether a drug is effective and well tolerated without having to fill an expensive prescription upfront.

Anyone unable to afford their prescription may consider applying for an assistance program from one of the following:

  • drug manufacturers
  • nonprofit organizations
  • government programs

The Medicare Extra Help program provides information about Social Security assistance for prescriptions.

Medicare also has a search tool to see whether a person’s state offers a state pharmaceutical assistance program.

Other tools, such as the Medicine Assistance Tool, help connect people with potential assistance programs depending on their eligibility.

Assistance programs typically require that the person seeking assistance needs a prescription medication in order to function. A person will also need to provide proof that they cannot afford the drug or have been denied insurance coverage.

Prescription costs can add up, especially for long-term medications or branded drugs with no generic alternatives. However, people may be able to save money on prescriptions by following certain strategies, whether they have insurance or not.

When looking to save money on prescriptions, a person should work closely with their doctor. Doctors can help identify cost-effective drug alternatives or provide longer prescriptions or samples. They can also explore the possibility of lowering dosages or stopping medications.

Anyone who cannot afford their prescriptions may want to consider applying for assistance programs, either from the drug companies themselves or from nonprofit organizations or government programs.