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Steps You Can Take to Bring Down Your Pharmacy Bill

Are you spending as little on drugs as you could be? If you're getting your prescriptions filled at the same place you always have, and if you haven't investigated the prices at all, chances are that you could be spending less if you did a bit of investigating. Here are some ways to do it.

Ask your doctor about ways to substitute your current medication. All drugs have patents that eventually expire. Once the expiration has happened, a generic drug is likely to become available. For example, in 2006, the cholesterol-lowering medication Zocor expired. There's now a generic drug that's 70 percent less money. It's always a good idea to ask your doctor whether a generic drug is available.

Ask your doctor as well whether an over-the-counter medication might work just as well as a prescription. This is sometimes the case, and the over-the-counter cost may be less than your co-pay for a prescription.

►An informative Web site that covers issues regarding medications and their costs is ConsumersUnion.org at http://www.crbestbuydrugs.org/index.shtml

Do a simple price comparison. Stores have been competing with each other ever since Wal-Mart lowered many of its generic drug prices to $4.00. You can call the different pharmacies in your area, or visit PharmacyChecker.com (http://www.pharmacychecker.com/) to look at price comparisons.

Buy more pills for less money. If you take medication on a long-term basis, see whether your health plan offers a mail-order option.This can offer you big savings in many cases.

Find out whether you can split your pills. If you can, you could end up paying half the price. But some pills can't be split, including those that are time-release drugs and capsules. Ask your doctor whether it's safe to split the medication that you take.

If you don't have insurance, or your income is low: There are programs that can help you. The Partnership for Prescription Assistance Web site (http://www.pparx.org/Intro.php) takes you through a series of steps to determine your eligibility for help.

The bottom line here is that whenever your doctor prescribes a medication for you, ask some questions. "Is there a less expensive generic version? How about an over-the-counter medication? How about another medication altogether?"

Delve into it as deeply as you can, and you're likely to see a financial payback.



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