Tips on How to Save Money on Prescriptions for Veterans

Tips on How to Save Money on Prescriptions for Veterans

Prescription medications can be quite expensive. Some people have medical insurance plans, Medicare, and Medicaid coverage and don’t have any need to pay the full cost of their drugs out-of-pocket.

U.S. veterans can save some money on their health care needs using benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. However, new regulations could increase co-pays for outpatient drugs to treat non-service connected conditions.

Furthermore, not all drugs are covered, and sometimes the coverage could be limited. In any case, there are some ways to save more on prescriptions, which could save a great deal of money.

This list of methods of saving money on prescribed medications includes only safe methods. These methods prevent patients from the chance of obtaining counterfeit drugs and suspiciously cheap drugs, because those could have no active substance in them or contain dangerous, toxic materials.

Try different pharmacies

The difference in price for the same medication at different pharmacy chains could be significant, even if consumers use only one insurance plan.

For example, the approximate price for 30 capsules of Vyvanse (an ADHD drug) is about $197 at Walmart and $253 at Rite Aid. Furthermore, Vyvanse is not on the VA Pharmacy Benefits Full Tiered Co-Pay Medication List, but it would be better to check the benefits list.

Savings could be lower in different areas and at different pharmacies. But still, if there are several prescriptions for a few drugs, savings could be surprisingly high. And this is only one of the ways to save money.

Online coupons

Another effective way to obtain medications at a lower cost is to use online coupons. For commonly used generics they might seem useless, in some cases. However, it’s always better to check what the price of the drug would be with a coupon.

Here is a list of services where patients can get coupons: Goodrx.com, InternetDrugCoupons.com.

Drug manufacturers run their assistance programs through those sites, and sometimes it is possible to get a huge discount for a specific drug if a program is available and the patient is eligible.

Use preventive care

The Affordable Care Act provides people with the ability to use preventive services at no cost if patients have Medicare coverage or any type of private insurance, or without any coverage if they use special medical centers.

It does not take much time to contact the VA and ask what services are available for free, or to check if it is possible to get services at medical centers by calling 1-877-222-VETS (8387).  But using preventive care services will significantly decrease the chance of needing multiple prescriptions down the road.

Mail-order pharmacies

Most patients who have bought their drugs online noticed that they paid a lower price for their medications. And ordering online is a good option to save money on prescribed medications by using online pharmacies, not brick-and-mortar ones.

But it is important to be careful when using online pharmacies. Some of them are fake, not licensed in the U.S., and could provide their customers with counterfeit drugs, or simply take money and send nothing instead.

Cheap drugs don’t always mean they are low-quality. In some cases, drugs are taken out from a pharmacy or hospital illegally. Despite their lower cost, it is best not to purchase them.

The best way to avoid any troubles like this is to use My HealtheVet Pharmacy or other U.S. licensed pharmacies.

Generics

Generics are cheaper than brand-name drugs, and mostly have the same efficacy. Patients should ask the doctor if it is possible to replace a prescribed brand-name drug with a generic one. Unless there is a “Dispense as Written” statement on the prescription, pharmacists provide their customers mostly with a generic version.

One good example is Lipitor. The estimated price for its brand version is about $160, and the generic form called atorvastatin is only about $20.

Here is the comparison between the cost of brand-name drugs and their generic versions:

Name, dosage, quantity

Brand-name price with coupon

Generic cash price

Generic price with coupon

Aricept (donepezil)
10mg, 30 capsules
$528.63 $230 $44.65
Celebrex (celecoxib)
200mg, 30 capsules
$347.40 $210 $64.87
Cymbalta (duloxetine)
60mg, 30 capsules
$235.71 $50 $43.17
Neurontin (gabapentin)
300mg, 90 capsules
$418.45 $90 $19.08
Opana (oxymorphone)
10mg, 120 tablets
$1,485.26 $450 $183.18
Prilosec (omeprazole)
20mg, 30 capsules
$232.07 $72 $12.22
Prozac (fluoxetine)
20mg, 30 capsules
$396.12 $4 $4.00
Seroquel (quetiapine)
25mg, 30 tablets
$128.08 $100 $26.41
Ultram (tramadol)
50mg, 120 tablets
$386.44 $42 $10.19
Zestoretic (lisinopril / HCTZ)
20mg/12.5mg, 30 tablets
$406.40 $4 $4.00

Prices with coupons are taken from Goodrx.com for Walmart pharmacies, which located in Washington D.C. and valid as of April 27, 2017. Please note that those prices are estimated. Prices depend on pharmacy and area, so it is possible to find even lower prices for prescribed medications.

Split a pill

Some pills can be split. If a tablet is designed to be split, it is possible to make two pills with 20mg dosage out of one 40mg pill. However, it is very important to ask a doctor if this is a good idea for every specific medication.

There are also drugs that are not designed to be split. Those are mostly pills with special coverage to protect the stomach, including birth control, long-acting drugs, and stimulants.

This method doesn’t seem useful, since drugs with a higher dosage of the active substance are more expensive. However, a twice-higher dosage doesn’t mean a twice-higher price.

Ask for an exemption

In cases when a drug is life-saving or important for a patient, and it is not covered by their medical insurance plan, the patient has an ability to get it covered by calling an insurer and asking for an exemption.

If the patient’s physician provides the insurer with evidence of the importance of the drug for keeping the patient in good health, there is a chance that the patient can get coverage for that specific drug.

Veterans can use a special program to get an exemption from the VA.

90-day supply instead of 30-day supply

Instead of using a 30-day supply of medication for each month, it is better to use a 90-day supply for three months.

Like in the case of pill splitting, a 90-day supply is not three times more expensive than a 30 day supply. If a patient has medical insurance, the most cost-saving option is to use a mail-order 90-day supply.

Use a patient assistance program

There are good options available for patients who can’t afford their drugs. They can use the services of the VA health assistance program or other organizations that help them to obtain drugs at low cost or at no cost at all.

It is a good decision to visit their websites or call them to get more details about eligibility and other information they need.

Here is a list of patient assistance programs:

  • The Partnership for Prescription Assistance; available at www.pparx.com or by calling  888-477-2669
  • Rx Outreach;  available at www.rxoutreach.org
  • NeedyMeds;  available at www.needymeds.org
  • RxAssist; part of the Center for Primary Care and Prevention at Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island, available at www.rxassist.org

If patient has a prescription for an expensive brand-name drug and cannot afford it, visiting a manufacturer’s website can help as well, since large pharmaceutical companies also run their own patient assistance programs. For example, you can learn more about Pfizer’s assistance program here.

Overall savings on prescription medications

Those tips will bring the best result if they are combined. On top of that, those methods also will help veterans to use only safe methods and decrease the chance of using counterfeit drugs, which could be not effective or even dangerous. Don’t hesitate to ask a doctor for advice if any of these methods seem to be unreliable or not effective.

Dmytro Nikolayev

Dmytro Nikolayev spent many years working in the field of healthcare, especially in its technical part. Gained much experience in Open Data and Machine Readable Formats used in the industry. Also, built several IT projects that were designed to help people with their healthcare decisions. Now he is an editor and author of Pharmacy Near Me

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