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Get help and save on prescription drug bills.

Many drug companies, some pharmacies, and Web sites are helping people save money on their prescription bills, or even get some medications for free. Here is what you need to know in order to get help, pay less, and start saving on your prescription drug costs.

Prescriptions are just one part of a patients over medical costs. With health care inflation running at a high single digit rate, millions of people (even those with insurance) are struggling or even filing bankruptcy due to their increasing medical bills and prescription costs. So in addition to the resources listed here, find ways to save on other medical bills. More.

Free or Discounted Prescription Drugs are Offered By Many Governments and Organizations. Many state and local governments, non-profit organizations, and drug companies offer either free or discounted medications to those in need. Continue.

You need to take advantage of the generic-drug price war. Generics are as effective and safe as name-brand drugs. Generics typically cost 30 to 80 percent less than brand name, says Mark Merritt, who is the chief executive and president of the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association. This group represents pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs) that coordinate drug coverage for health insurers.

Walgreens, Kmart and  Wal-Mart, among others, have started the trend of providing ever low costs on generics, and now it's spread to many other big chains. Wal-Mart, Sam's Club and Target offer hundreds of low cost generic prescriptions to customers for as little as $3 to $4 a month while Kmart offers more than 200 generic prescriptions for $15 for a 90-day supply. Note that prices are always changing...usually decreasing. Also, they may be higher in some states. For example, California has a law against pricing drugs below their cost, so some prescriptions on the list will be more expensive in those states.





Sign up for prescription assistance. If you have a low income, or are experiencing a financial hardship, you may be eligible for free or discounted prescription drugs from a patchwork of nonprofit, state, or drug-company specific programs. One place you need to start looking for help is the Partnership for Prescription Assistance. Other resources that may provide help include NeedyMeds, the Eldercare Locator, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, and the Access to Benefits Coalition. All these programs can help you save significant amount of money on your medications.

Go to Mexico or Canada to save on prescription bills. The truth is that many drugs are significantly cheaper south or north of the border than they are in the US. Buying brand-name medications from Canada can help you sometimes save up to 50 percent. The reason why is that it is against the law to "reimport" drugs that are made in the U.S. and sold outside of our nations borders. Of course, the legal restrictions do not prevent or stop millions of Americans from legally crossing the borders in order to get help with buying and saving on drug bills. However, be warned that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cautions that there may be potential safety issues, so consider yourself warned.

Buy online. If you are like many, and can't get to Canada or Mexico conveniently, you may be tempted to buy from a foreign-based pharmacy online. Again, be aware that there may be safety and accreditation issues. You definitely do not want to buy from an online pharmacy that does not require or have a medical accreditation. You can help lower any risk by using a site that carries the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy's Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS). However, you shouldn’t necessarily take the pharmacy's word for it. You need to check at the national association's site to make sure the certification is legitimate. (Look for "Internet Pharmacies" in the search box at bottom.)

Shop around to help save on prescription bills. Once you have your drug prescription in hand, a little time spent on the phone, and on the Web, can help you pay less and save bundles of money. By the way, you need to put as much time and effort into shopping for your generic prescriptions as you do shopping for your brand-name ones. The price you will pay for a generic prescription drug can vary by 80% or more, depending on where you buy it from, while the amount you pay for a brand-name drug's cost will typically varies by only 10% or so.

Check your health insurance policy, if you have one. If your health insurance policy covers prescription drug bills, it more than likely will have lower co-pays for generic drugs. A standard co-pay is $10 or $20 for a generic prescription and your bill may be $30 or more for a brand-name version. This is a big difference in potential prescription costs.

Many health insurers also have arrangements with mail-order pharmacies that will allow their patients to get a three or more month supplies of many "maintenance," or long-term, medications at a reduced price. The insurer will usually offer this at a discount or with lower co-pays.

Enlist your pharmacist or doctor for help with prescription bills. If you want limit your drug costs and bills, you need these professionals to help you and be your ally. Your physician knows your medical history best and they can oftentimes discuss alternative medical therapies with you, while your pharmacist may also be more aware of the specific costs of those alternatives. Also, pharmacists are more up to date about what prescription drugs are available over the counter and that may help you meet your medical needs.

Look for coupons and deals to help save on prescription bills. You should take the time to head to a brand-name drug's official Web site (use search box below) to determine whether there are rebates or coupons available.




By Jon McNamara

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