My family is getting ready to move and, for the first time in many years, will change medical providers and pharmacies. Because my husband and I take a number of prescriptions, do you have any ideas to save money? — Theresa Thrifty

Dear Mrs. Thrifty: On the one hand, I'm glad to hand out some savvy advice, compliments of several sources but, on the other, I wish you had been using some of these tips all along. Among your docs, the insurance company, and pharmacist, lots of money can be salvaged to enable you to spend that extra on more pleasant purchases. Be sure to ask the following questions:



1. Is a lower-cost generic available? Even though Medicare and most insurance companies these days insist on non-brands, many providers still hurriedly write a script and don't specify generic substitution. The latter can save from 20 to 70 percent (and sometimes more)!

2. What about an over-the-counter substitute? Allergies abound, especially within our region; it pays - literally - to know Flonase or Nasacort, for example, can be bought for around twenty bucks rather than the $100+ for brand-name options.

3. Can you give me free samples? Drug reps are in and out of doctors' offices every day and leave worlds of sample medications. Why let the freebies sit on a storage room shelf when the meds can do you some good, plus you don't waste money on a prescription which doesn't do its intended job? (Along this same line, ask Dr. DoRight to write the new 'script for fourteen days or less. In the event the medication doesn't do the trick and, particularly, if a brand name is recommended which can cost four times as much as the generic, you won't shell out the entire amount.)

4. Do you have a manufacturers' discount card? Savings cards sometimes offer even more dough than one's regular insurance. Pharmacists know to check our Medicare RX and the savings card (GoodRX, for example) on file to see which one gives the best price break.

5. May I split the pill or take it every other day? Certainly, one would never do this without the doc's say so; on the other hand, pill-splitting can be a great cost saver. My husband, for instance, finds it substantially cheaper for one of his meds to be filled at a higher dosage but he then splits the pills for daily use.



1. Is my drug on your deep-discount generic list in any amount? One specific example in Parade magazine scarily enough tells of a New Jersey chain selling a 90-day supply of the 20 mg antidepressant "paroxetine" for $10. However, the chain also was selling the 25 mg extended-release version for $321.84! Always ask.

2. Can I save money by buying from you directly? If your plan is a high-deductible one, it could help substantially to pay the pharmacy's cash price rather than what the insurance company charges.

3. Can you help with manufacturer assistance programs? (Also ask this question of your physician.) The latter programs, available from many drug companies, may cover the entire cost of expensive drugs. I was able to save my mother a great deal of money in her later years by applying to pharmaceutical companies for monthly meds — free.



1. What are your "preferred" pharmacies located close to me? Unbelievably, a drugstore on the corner may charge $4 for a prescription while another store only a couple of blocks down the road charges $150 for the exact same drug. The "preferred" locations should always offer the best prices.

2. Is my medication on your approved list? If a costly specialty drug becomes necessary (to treat cancer, for instance) and it's not on this list, make haste to your provider to help with your appeal.

Contact Ellen Phillips at

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Ellen Phillips