More than 80 percent of Americans take at least one prescription drug. That’s a lot of trips to the pharmacy, which takes both time and money.
Debi Reissman, director of pharmacy benefits for Sharp Health Plan, provides expert advice on effective methods to save money and time, the proper questions to ask, and extra tips when filling a prescription.
How to save money
- Find out if a generic version of your medicine is available. More than half of the prescription drugs available today offer a generic option. By asking one simple question, “Is there a generic?”, you give yourself the greatest opportunity to save money. If the answer is no, you can ask if a suitable generic alternative is available. It is best to speak with your prescriber about a generic before you head to the pharmacy.
- Confirm that your drug is on formulary. A formulary (commonly referred to as a drug list) is a list of prescription drugs covered by a specific health plan, which contains both name brand and generic drugs. You will pay a set copay on formulary drugs. If the drug is not on the list, you will pay much more.
- Shop around. Medication costs can vary at different pharmacies, especially on plans with deductibles.
How to save time
- Call the pharmacy to find out if the prescription is ready. The doctor may not have sent it in yet or it may be a drug that needs to be special ordered. Save yourself a wasted trip.
- Find out how many days in advance you need to call for refills. You do not want to find yourself stuck without your needed medications at the last minute — especially if you are headed out of town.
- Avoid busy times. The busiest times for pharmacies are during the noon hour and from 5 to 7 pm.
- Use mail order pharmacy services. Mail order is a convenient, cost-effective way to get maintenance medications for chronic, long-term conditions. Most maintenance drugs are available through Sharp Health Plan’s mail order service.
What to ask with a new prescription
When picking up a prescription for the first time, speak with your pharmacist about directions for use. You should ask:
- Are there special storage requirements? For example, does the medication need refrigeration or should it be kept out of sunlight?
- Should I take my medication with meals or on an empty stomach?
- Should I take my medication at a specific time of day?
- Are there any drug interactions? (Some medications should not be taken together or should only be used together with close physician monitoring.)
- Are there any food interactions? (With some drugs, you should not eat specific foods.)
- What should I do if I miss a dose?
- What are the common side effects associated with this prescription, and how can I lessen these if they occur?
- What are the possible serious adverse effects that would require a call to my doctor?
- Ask for easy-open caps. If you struggle opening standard drug containers, you can ask your pharmacist for special caps.
- Get a medication reminder tool. If you often forget to take your medication on a regular basis, ask the pharmacy for dosing aids or pillboxes to help.
Being an informed consumer can prevent some of the challenges that come with filling and taking prescriptions, and help keep you at your healthiest.