The high cost of medications is a bitter pill to swallow, but fortunately there are many ways to save money whether you have insurance or not. These strategies include retailers' discount drug programs, drug companies' assistance programs, free clinics and government aid programs.
Retailers' discount drug programs
Major retailers have made headlines by offering hundreds of drugs at little or even no cost. For example:
- Wal-Mart. The world's largest retailer offers up to a 30-day supply of more than 350 prescription drugs for $4 and 1,000 over-the-counter drugs for $4 or less. The list includes prescriptions for many but not all common conditions, including allergies, arthritis and pain, asthma, diabetes, eye diseases, gastrointestinal disorders, gynecological conditions, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, infections, mental health, skin diseases and thyroid disorders. Some of the medications are available in a 90-day supply for $10. Even if you have health insurance, you may save money by going this route, depending on your co-payment.
- Target. This retailer has launched a similar program covering more than 300 generic prescription drugs. Again it's $4 for up to a 30-day supply and $10 for up to a 90-day supply. Also note that Target's weekly insert in Sunday newspapers occasionally offers a $10 store card for starting or transferring a prescription.
- Supermarket pharmacies. Like Target, supermarket chains such as Kroger, Giant Eagle and Food City have matched Wal-Mart's $4 price on hundreds of 30-day prescriptions. Some also have discounts on larger prescriptions.
- Kmart. At this discount chain, three-month supplies of some generics go for $10 or $15.
- Warehouse clubs. If a discount drug program at one of the above chains doesn't include your prescription, the cheapest generics are sometimes found at membership stores such as Costco or Sam's Club.
- Walgreens. This nationwide drugstore chain has a program offering a three-month supply for more than 400 generic drugs for $12.99. There is an annual enrollment fee of $20 for individuals and $35 for families. Walgreens promises $50 worth of coupons just for asking a pharmacist about the plan.