How to save money on your prescriptions during the pandemic and beyond

Struggling to pay for prescriptions? There are ways get free or discounted medication
Posted at 1:42 PM, May 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-29 09:41:05-04

CLEVELAND — Healthcare is at the forefront of so many people’s minds right now — medical bills, rising prescription costs.

According to the FDA, there was already a drug shortage underway before the pandemic.

Couple that with coronavirus, and you may need help with your medications.

“Drug prices are so complicated and so not transparent that it is hard to know what’s going on, but you look for the best deal you can,” said Sharona Hoffman, professor of law and bioethics at Case Western Reserve University.

Hoffman explained that the United States does not regulate prescription drug prices — so manufacturers can set whatever number they want, and insurers can negotiate however they want.

And sometimes, that ends up with the cost of our prescriptions making us sick. Hoffman said she has seen no indication of costs leveling off, and in fact, most are continuing to rise.

And we know even with tighter budgets, job losses and cut hours during the pandemic — chronic illnesses don’t go away.

If your child has asthma, you still need those inhalers.

If you suffer from anxiety or depression, you still need your prescriptions.

With so many people struggling to make ends meet, it can be tough to spend money on medication — you might even be thinking about skipping or spacing out doses.

But Hoffman said it’s crucial that you prioritize getting prescriptions you need -- do not decrease your dosage to save money.

“It is a lot more expensive to end up in the hospital because you haven’t taken your medication and you have an emergency,” Hoffman said.

So here’s some advice on cutting costs:

First, always try to get the generic version.

But be sure to ask your doctor if it works just the same. In some cases, like for depression drugs, the brand name can be the only way to go.

Second, look online for coupons directly on the manufacturers’ website or use apps like WeRX or GoodRX.

Even though they sound too good to be true sometimes — chopping hundreds off your prescription bill — experts say they are legit.

And finally, have a conversation with your pharmacist.

“Sometimes, oddly, it is cheaper not to use your insurance than it is to use your insurance,” Hoffman said. “And your pharmacist should be able to give you some price comparisons if you ask.”

There is also help available through this resource guide for prescription medications provided by ADAMHS.