Deal Finder: Local pharmacists offer tips to save $$$ on prescription drugs

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By LaTina Emerson, The Shopper Deal Finder

Many people rely on medications prescribed by their doctors to treat illnesses or successfully manage chronic health conditions. However, prescription drugs can be costly and even out of reach for those who don’t have prescription drug insurance coverage.

Local pharmacists at Lee-King Pharmacy and Lambert Pharmacy LLC offer their tips on how to save on prescription drug costs.

Work with a Local Pharmacy

“I think it’s best to always deal with a local pharmacy because what sets us apart from the chains and other types of pharmacies is that we will take the time to try to get you the best price that we can on a medication,” said Mindy Leech, pharmacist and owner of Lee-King Pharmacy at 18 Cavender St. in Newnan.

If a patient is prescribed an expensive medication, Leech will call the patient’s doctor and ask if the physician is willing to send over a prescription for a cheaper, similar medication.

“We’ll also spend time to try to get coupons, and sometimes we can give patients cash prices that will save them some money as well,” Leech said. Cash price refers to the current price of the drug if it were purchased outside of insurance. “If people don’t have prescription insurance, which everyone doesn’t always have, the local pharmacy can typically get the best cash price.”

Stay on Track with Medications

A lot of times, taking preventive medications will keep patients from getting stuck with really expensive prescriptions down the line, Leech said.

“We can help with reminding you that it’s time to fill your medicine and that it’s important to keep taking those baseline, long-term medications,” Leech said. “Taking your preventive medications can reduce long-term healthcare costs.”

Ask your Pharmacist for Advice

“I think we are sometimes an underutilized healthcare advocate,” Leech said. “We’re here to help people feel their best. As an independent pharmacy, we are afforded more time to take for the patients. We will make the time.”

She encourages patients to call their pharmacist if they have questions about their health. This free consultation could help save patients a trip to the doctor’s office – and money.

“You can call us up anytime. A lot of times, we can help with an over-the-counter regimen or say, no you definitely need to go to urgent care or see your doctor.”

Seek Drug Assistance Programs

Some medications, such as insulins and blood thinners, can be really expensive. Uninsured patients or individuals with high insurance copays can get help through drug assistance programs.

If patients are struggling with their high prescription drug costs, they should speak with their doctor. Usually, someone in the doctor’s office can make a call to a drug assistance program on the patient’s behalf. These programs often require patients to complete some paperwork to qualify.

“Sometimes they can get the medication for you for little to nothing,” Leech said. “Doctor’s offices sometimes also have samples.”

10 More Ways to Save

Melissa Lambert, a pharmacist and owner of Lambert Pharmacy at 15 Thomas Grace Annex Lane, Suite 150 in Sharpsburg (Thomas Crossroads), shares her top 10 ways to save money on prescriptions.

• Use generics. They have the same active ingredient as the brand name drugs.

• Shop local. Local pharmacies will work with patients more than big box or chain stores.

• Get a 90-day supply, if possible. This will reduce the number of trips to the pharmacy.

• Apply for financial assistance from the manufacturer for brand name medications, such as Eliquis, Xarelto, Jardiance or Januvia.

• Use manufacturer copay cards to reduce copay, if eligible. Patients can’t use these cards with government funded insurance.

• Switch Medicare plans during open enrollment. Insulin saver programs will be available next year on select Medicare D plans.

• Sign up for a Health Savings Account (HSA) or Flexible Spending Account (FSA). This allows patients to contribute pre-tax dollars to an account and then use the money to pay for medical costs, prescriptions and some over-the-counter items.

• Ask your pharmacist when is the best time to take certain medications to get the full effect with the lowest dose.

• For pet medications, the same human medicine given to pets may be cheaper at your pharmacy than through the vet.

• Though prescription discount cards exist, Lambert doesn’t personally like them because they sell the patient’s information and cost the pharmacy money to use them.

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