The cost of many leading brand-name medicines went up by nearly double digits last year, according to a new AARP survey. Here's your antidote to higher prices. By Walecia Konrad
Opt for mail order. Most employers' prescription-drug plans offer access to mail-order suppliers, such as Express Scripts and Medco, but not all participants take advantage of the services. For people who regularly take medications (like birth-control pills or drugs for high cholesterol or allergies), these programs can yield substantial savings, since you get a long-term supply. A 90-day supply of some brand-name medicines can cost as much as $100 less than three separate 30-day prescriptions at the corner pharmacy. Talk to your benefits manager for more information.
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Be cautious about free samples. If you take the packets of meds your doctor doles out, be aware: Freebies are often available for only the most expensive brand-name prescriptions used to treat chronic conditions. So ask your doctor if she has considered generics or a more established (and less expensive) brand-name alternative, says Jan Engle, an executive associate dean at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy.
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Split your pills (as long as your doctor approves). If you're taking 20 milligrams of a cholesterol medicine, for example, ask your general practitioner to prescribe the 40-milligram dose, then use an inexpensive pill-splitting device from the drugstore to cut each pill in half, says Engle. Most of the time, you'll pay the same price but get double the doses. Note: This doesn't work with gel caps, time-release medications, or capsules.
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