A Simple Way to Cut Your Drug Costs

Health Writer

If high prescription drug costs are giving you a headache, here’s a suggestion: Take it up with your doctor.

Obvious as that advice may seem, many patients fail to heed it, according to a new report in the July/August 2017 issue of the National Poll on Healthy Aging from the University of Michigan.

In a survey of more than 2,000 Americans age 50 to 80, researchers found that 27 percent of respondents considered their prescription drug bills to be a financial burden. But of that group, nearly half (49 percent) hadn’t discussed it with their doctors.

High costs, missed doses

One reason, the researchers theorize, is that patients may feel they don’t have time to raise the subject of prescription costs “because there are so many other topics to cover.” Still, they note, high out-of-pocket drug costs are very much a medical issue, especially when they have consequences, such as missed doses, that can lead to negative health outcomes.

What could your doctor do to help? Recommend cheaper alternative medications, if they are available, for one thing. In fact, of the patients who discussed drug costs with their doctors, 67 percent reported that the doctor was able to suggest a less-expensive option for them.

Pharmacists can help, too

Doctors can also urge cost-conscious patients to discuss alternative drugs with their pharmacists. While doctors may be aware of such alternatives, they don’t necessarily know whether the patient’s insurance plan covers a particular drug or what it charges for it.

That’s where your pharmacist can come in. The survey found that 37 percent of patients who also discussed drug costs with their pharmacist said they’d received recommendations for less-expensive drugs.

What’s more, pharmacists may be aware of other potential money-savers, such as prescription discount cards and patient assistance programs for some medications, the report points out.

And if you’re on Medicare

Finally, if you have Medicare Part D drug coverage and take prescriptions for multiple chronic conditions, you may be eligible for a free Medication Therapy Management (MTM) program conducted by a pharmacist or other health professional.

It will include a review of your current drug costs and whether they can be reduced. You’ll also get a written action plan that you can discuss with your doctor. For more details, visit Medicare.gov

Learn more about the University of Michigan report here.