The Best Ways To Get Discounts On Your Prescriptions

If you've ever turned on your TV and been inundated with pharmaceutical ads, it should come as no surprise then that, according to Statista, the United States is the largest and most lucrative market for pharmaceuticals in the world. With 42% of global sales in 2022, the U.S. accounted for $630 billion of the $1.48 trillion worldwide pharmaceutical market.

Aside from massive investment in advertising, the actual cost of medications likely has a lot to do with the U.S.' outsized share of the market. As reported by Reuters, the cost of pharmaceuticals rose by 35% from 2022 to 2023. This became the impetus for a Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, where the top brass from Bristol Myers Squibb, Johnson & Johnson, and Merck were grilled about why. The reasoning for the CEOs came down to Americans getting faster access to the drugs than other countries where a similar drug would cost half as much.

Although pharmaceutical giants like Eli Lilly have attempted to make life-saving medications like insulin cheaper by capping the cost at $35 a month, the issue of expensive drugs persists. According to a report from nonprofit global think tank RAND, with the exception of generic drugs, U.S. prices averaged 278% that of other countries. It turns out generic, unbranded prescriptions were actually cheaper than in most countries, so there's one way to save on your medications.

Applying to government programs

Beyond U.S. Senate hearings, the U.S. government offers assistance in the form of programs that help pay for the cost of prescriptions. Medicaid, for example, is a federal/state program that works to alleviate the financial burden of lower-income earners requiring prescriptions and medical services by subsidizing insurance coverage. Medicare, meanwhile, is adjacent to Medicaid and both can be used in conjunction with each other. Your state's regulations around maximum income allowances and resources will determine eligibility and coverage.

Assuming you qualify for both, your state will cover your monthly insurance premiums and may also cover deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance. Medicare's "Extra Help" program will kick in to assist with prescription costs after Medicaid coverage is exhausted, covering up to $4.50 for generic drugs and $11.20 for brand-name medications. You'll pay no premiums or deductibles, and once you hit $8,000 in drug costs, you'll pay nothing for each drug covered by the program. This said, just beware of Medicare fraud, which you can learn more about in this Money Analysis article about financial scams senior citizens need to be aware of.

State Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs (SPAPs) work in concert with Medicare to assist with prescription costs. Once fully funded by states, the federal government agreed to help fund SPAPs in 2006. With 48 states offering SPAPs, it's a good idea to check your state's eligibility requirements. You can find a list of state programs and links on the National Conference of State Legislature website.

Looking into chain-store discounts

As one of our 13 products you should always buy in-store instead of online, it makes sense to buy prescription medications at a chain store if you can do it at a discount. For example, Walmart's low- cost prescription program offers a 30-day supply of prescription medications for as low as $4, or a 90-day prescription for as much as $10. The pricing may change depending on a person's state so call the store closest to you to see about your prescription availability and pricing.

Walgreens' Prescription Savings Club, meanwhile, is worth joining for discounts on over 8,000 prescription meds that are accessible to everyone in your household. It includes additional features like three refills for the cost of two, a 10% bonus on the rest of your shopping, and as much as 20% off annual vaccinations in-store. As long as you're over 18 years old, you're eligible with or without insurance and can use the membership to purchase any drugs cheaper than what you get through your coverage. For $35 a year, you can cover your entire household, including pets. Although the program ends August 31, 2024, Walgreens will honor any bonuses accrued for up to 30 days after your membership expires or will refund the difference from your remaining membership.

Costco membership also comes with a genius hack to save money on prescriptions by serving as members' Rx cards, too. By showing your Costco card at any participating pharmacy, you can save up to 80% on medications.

Researching nonprofit organizations

As per the Congressional Research Service, 26 million Americans, or roughly 8% of the population, were uninsured in 2022. The reasons for this were mainly affordability of coverage, ineligibility for Medicaid, undocumented immigration, and a job that offered no health coverage. The result of that is less preventative care and worse health outcomes, specifically for lower-income households and communities in the country.

According to the Charitable Pharmacies of America, charitable pharmacies receive donations of prescription medications from pharmaceutical companies that can be distributed through a network of clinics for free, or considerably less than a drug's average cost. You can search for charitable pharmacies in your area on the association's website.

Another way nonprofit organizations can help you save on your prescription is by finding you programs that can help. Nonprofits like RXAssist, NeedyMeds, or the Young Survival Coalition's Partnership for Prescription Assistance, offer a list of patient-assistance programs, including where to source low- and no-cost prescriptions, across the United States. Adjacent to these organizations is RXHope, a nonprofit that acts as an intermediary between patients, doctors, and pharmaceutical manufacturers of brand-name drugs to secure the lowest cost prescriptions available.

Finally, nonprofits like the Patient Advocate Foundation don't just advocate for health access for uninsured populations but they also provide financial aid for both patients and care providers. They specialize in providing health support and access for Americans suffering from life-threatening, ongoing, and life-altering illnesses.

Asking the pharmaceutical company directly

A lesser-known way of obtaining a discount on expensive prescription drugs is to contact the pharmaceutical company directly. Pfizer's RXPathways program, for instance, will provide co-pay assistance and potentially free drugs for any applicants who qualify. If you're a U.S. citizen with a valid prescription for an FDA-approved Pfizer drug and can show you're financially incapable of affording the drug, whether insured or not — you'll still need to fall within 300% or more of the federal poverty line — and have an American health care provider, you're eligible.

Pfizer's Patient Assistance Program will go as far as dispensing free prescriptions to qualifying applicants through participating hospitals, health care centers, and clinics. All of the aforementioned prerequisites apply, with the exception of citizenship being a requirement. Migrants and even unhoused people may be eligible for this program.

The Lilly Cares Foundation is the nonprofit arm of drug manufacturer Eli Lilly and offers up to a year of free Eli Lilly prescription drugs to applicants who qualify. To qualify, you need to be a U.S. citizen with an Eli Lilly prescription submitted by a health care provider, and not be enrolled in Medicaid or other federal programs. Other eligibility requirements include having no insurance, having Medicare (Part D or B), and meeting the household income limits.

Novartis also has a patient-assistance program that can provide co-pay assistance for insured applicants or no-cost prescriptions through the company's Patient Assistance Foundation. Most people don't consider medications when planning retirement. We, however, suggest factoring prescriptions into how much you'll need to retire comfortably.

Making use of apps

Finally, discounts through apps, coupons, and cards can save you money at the pharmacy on bulk purchases. For example, GoodRx is an app that assists with tracking your prescriptions and savings while also earning you rewards. The app offers discounts of 80% to up to 90% with the gold tier, is accepted at over 70,000 pharmacies across the U.S., and is totally free to join. WellRx is another app that can discount as much as 80% off of prescriptions and is honored at over 65,000 pharmacies in all 50 states. Similar to GoodRx, the app can track a user's prescriptions and source the lowest cost for your medications.

The SingleCare app offers patients the ability to search for the cheapest version of their medication at over 35,000 pharmacies in America. It provides users with a coupon they can present at any of the 35,000 participating pharmacies in their region. Although SingleCare has the fewest participating pharmacies, the Better Business Bureau gives it just over four stars out of five based on an average of 87 customer reviews.