How to Save on Prescription Drugs

Employers and insurers are offering more online tools and smartphone apps that steer you to the lowest drug prices.

Shot of a pharmacist assisting a customer in a chemist
(Image credit: NIKISH HIRAMAN PHOTOGRAPHY (NIKISH HIRAMAN PHOTOGRAPHY (Photographer) - [None])

Question: I have a high-deductible health insurance plan and tend to rack up hefty prescription drug costs each year. Are there any good tools or resources to help me save on prescriptions? - R.C., Nashville

Answer: Many employers and insurers are beefing up their online tools to provide personalized advice that can help you pay less for prescription drugs. You can look up the drug on your smartphone before you leave the doctor’s office and find out how much it will cost you (whether or not you’ve met your deductible). You can also see whether you can save money with generics or therapeutic alternatives, and whether you can get your meds at preferred pharmacies with lower prices.

You can also get manufacturers’ coupons for thousands of drugs at GoodRx.com (opens in new tab) or via its smartphone app (opens in new tab), which also alerts you to lower-cost alternatives, patient assistance programs and nearby pharmacies offering the lowest cash price. “You can save hundreds of dollars by doing some research,” says Thomas Goetz, chief of research at GoodRx. (Plus, your pharmacist can now provide information about whether a drug would cost less by paying cash than using your insurance.)

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You can find out about drug manufacturers’ co-pay assistance programs and private foundations’ patient assistance programs at NeedyMeds.org (opens in new tab). Some have income cut-offs but may offer help for families that earn up to 600% of the federal poverty level (about $100,000 for a couple or $150,600 for a family of four), says Shanna Barnes, of the Lash Group (opens in new tab), which administers drug companies’ patient assistance programs. Find out about disease-specific programs at www.panfoundation.org (opens in new tab).

Kimberly Lankford
Contributing Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

As the "Ask Kim" columnist for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Lankford receives hundreds of personal finance questions from readers every month. She is the author of Rescue Your Financial Life (McGraw-Hill, 2003), The Insurance Maze: How You Can Save Money on Insurance -- and Still Get the Coverage You Need (Kaplan, 2006), Kiplinger's Ask Kim for Money Smart Solutions (Kaplan, 2007) and The Kiplinger/BBB Personal Finance Guide for Military Families. She is frequently featured as a financial expert on television and radio, including NBC's Today Show, CNN, CNBC and National Public Radio.