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How to save on prescriptions and more at Walgreens, CVS and other pharmacies

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Pharmacies have often played an essential role in treating our health at home, but perhaps never more so than during the pandemic. They have been important places to stock up on essentials such as disinfectant spray, hand sanitizer, vitamins and other items. But we also buy from large pharmacy chains like CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid for non-essentials too. Ever expanding in their retail offerings, we could easily buy snacks or nail polish, or even sunglasses. The list is long and our money is too easily spent.

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Often, however, the real blow to our wallets comes from the cost of prescription drugs, which have skyrocketed in recent years. According to GoodRx, at the start of 2022, the list price of more than 810 drugs increased by an average of 5.1%. 791 of these drugs were brand name drugs, 19 were generic drugs, 199 were specialty drugs and 84 were the type you can only receive under the supervision of a provider.

What’s more, according to a new analysis from the AARP Public Policy Institute, the price of brand-name drugs has increased by an average of 5% for people on Medicare Part D, with some as much as 8%.

These dramatic increases in prescription drug costs in the United States contribute to the overall struggle that millions of Americans face when they are simply trying to survive. After all, what could be more essential than medication?

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alvarez/Getty Images

Find out the spot price of prescription drugs

“Ask the pharmacy staff for the cash price, even if you have insurance,” said Christopher K. Lee, MPH, health strategy consultant. “The reason for this is that sometimes the cash price will be lower than your insurance co-pay. It sounds reversed, but it’s the reality. Even if the pharmacist knows the cash price is lower, his contracts with the Pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) often include gag clauses that prevent them from voluntarily providing this information.Patients should be aware of this and defend themselves by asking questions about the spot price.

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Skynesher/Getty Images

Request a 90 day supply of medication

Buying in bulk always saves money, and this can also apply to prescription drugs. Especially considering that often a co-pay will stay the same whether you buy one month or three months of a drug, according to TrueCostofHealthcare.org.

“Let’s say you’re supposed to take medicine for 90 days; it helps to get the entire prescription all at once rather than buying it every 30 days,” said Mike Stuzzi, Founder, Galileo money.

“Requesting a 90-day supply can get you a lower price and is also convenient. You might even save a little on transportation costs to get to pharmacies.”

alvarez/Getty Images

alvarez/Getty Images

Switch to credits

“Brand name drugs have higher prices because they own the drug patents,” said Alex Williams, Certified Financial Planner and Chief Financial Officer of FindThisBest. “But when those patents expire, competition can drive prices down while the original manufacturer sells for even more. Generic substitutes contain the same ingredients and are much cheaper. By buying generic alternatives, you can save a lot of money. money without having to compromise on your health.” In fact, according to the Federal Trade Commission, generics can be anywhere from 20-70% cheaper than a brand name.

Hiraman/Getty Images

Hiraman/Getty Images

Enter the rewards/loyalty program

“If you plan to buy only from popular pharmacies, be sure to enroll in their reward programs,” Williams said. “Drugstores like Walgreens have a point system, where you can accumulate points with every purchase. When you have enough points, you can qualify for discounts or multiple free items. The easiest way to take advantage of this system is collect points through cheap items, then use them to get discounts on expensive drugs.”

form filler / Getty Images / iStockphoto

form filler / Getty Images / iStockphoto

Take advantage of BOGO offers

“If you’re willing to spend more money up front, you’ll save money in the long run,” said Romy Taormina, CEO and Founder of Psi Health Solutions. “You can almost always find BOGO-type deals (buy one, get one). Example: Instead of just buying one bottle of hair spray at full price, buy two bottles, one of which is at strong and the second at half price.”

You can also often find BOGO discounts on vitamins. While this doesn’t apply to prescription drugs, it’s a great way to save on over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and other health supplements.

diego_cervo/Getty Images/iStockphoto

diego_cervo/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Buy supplements in the singular (as opposed to combined)

“You can save money when buying dietary supplements by buying a supplement that only provides the ingredient you need, such as vitamin D or magnesium, rather than one that combines that ingredient with a lot of other ingredients that you don’t need,” Tod said. Cooperman, MD, President and Founder of ConsumerLab.com. “It’s also much cheaper to choose a powder, capsule, or tablet rather than a more complicated formulation like a candy or drink. Typically, there won’t be a significant difference in absorption between the two. For example, a single vitamin, such as vitamin D, should cost no more than 3 to 5 cents per day, and a multivitamin should cost no more than 5 to 10 cents per day, but you could easily pay up to 10 times more for more complicated products.”

FG Commerce/Getty Images

FG Commerce/Getty Images

Search drug name with ‘coupon’

“If there is no generic of your brand name drug, type the name of the drug with ‘coupon,'” said Chris Nddie, a frequent shopper at the pharmacy. “There is a good chance that you will find a discount of up to 75% off. As this is something related to my profession, I can guarantee that this trick works. There are discounts for medicines on many coupon websites if customers are willing to try them.”

Nicky Lloyd/Getty Images

Nicky Lloyd/Getty Images

Use prescription price comparison sites

“Using websites that compare prescription prices is a perfect way to save money,” said Roslyn Lash, aka the Silver Elevation Trainer. “Sites such as GoodRx will help you compare prices and also offer free coupons to help you save money on your prescription.”

Techa Tungateja/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Techa Tungateja/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Use the Flipp app

“I discovered the Flipp app many years ago while working for Canadian Grocer magazine,” Lisa Bucher said. “It makes it easy to shop using flyers. You can select sales from many of your local pharmacies. The app makes a list for you at each of the stores and you shop within your budget and only get the items from your list. So often we don’t make lists and plan our shopping spree and that’s where things go wrong. We end up making impulse purchases and come away spending more than we planned and maybe even by not buying what we came for. While this app is unlikely to help you with prescription drugs, it’s probably a good way to find deals on vitamins, supplements, and other health aids.

svetikd / Getty Images

svetikd / Getty Images

Avoid buying items like toilet paper and diapers

“Items like diapers, toilet paper, disposable cutlery and dishes are things you go through very quickly,” Williams said. “Avoid at all costs to buy them in pharmacies [and instead] buy them in bulk at major retail stores. »

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Jordan Rosenfeld contributed to this article.

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: How to save on prescriptions and more at Walgreens, CVS and other pharmacies