6 Questions You Should Ask Your Pharmacist to Save Money
To get the best deal on your medication, try these simple conversation starters at the pharmacy counter (or over the phone).
Photo credit: Jacob Lund/Shutterstock.com
Michael Stanley, PharmD, CSP,
Mar 25, 2020 • 3 min read
Getting hit with a high price tag at the pharmacy can throw anyone for a loop. Especially when budgets are tight or you’re just starting a new treatment plan.
The good news? Your pharmacist can help. Having worked in pharmacies for over 10 years, I can tell you that it pays to strike up a conversation with the person behind the counter. Below, I’ll walk you through six questions to ask that will have the biggest impact on your wallet.
1. What’s the Cash Price?
Most people don’t know that pharmacies offer retail, or cash prices. This is the price you pay out-of-pocket for any given prescription medication, versus the copay or coinsurance offered by a health insurance plan. If you think you’re getting the best deal with insurance, the truth is that your copay isn't always cheaper. For more savings tips on cash prices, keep reading.
2. Does Your Pharmacy Have a Discount Program?
Most pharmacies offer savings programs as a way to build customer loyalty. When evaluating these programs and the price for your medication, just be sure to ask about any monthly or annual membership fees. Walmart, Costco, and independent pharmacies offer some of the best deals at no extra charge. Publix even offers some antibiotics, diabetes, and high blood pressure medications for free.
3. Is a Generic Available?
If you’re taking a brand medication, switching to a generic medication might be your best money-saving move. In fact, most states permit, and even require, pharmacists to offer generic equivalents—which can be just as effective–to consumers who present prescriptions for brand name medications. This is called generic substitution, and it can save you (and the U.S. healthcare system) a lot of money. Learn more about generics and how to decide if making the switch is right for you.
Tip: Be sure to check Blink Health when comparing cash prices and discounts for generic medications. You can use Blink at your local pharmacy, or get free delivery to your home.
4. Can I Schedule an MTM Session?
If you take multiple medications, especially those prescribed by different providers, you should ask about setting up a medication therapy management (MTM) visit with your pharmacist (you can also set one up over the phone). This includes a full review of all your medications, including nonprescription drugs, supplements, and vitamins. In some cases, your pharmacist may find that a particular medication may no longer be necessary at all. Anytime I complete an MTM session with one of my patients, I always check to see if there are lower-cost alternatives—whether that’s a savings program or a generic equivalent on a better formulary tier with their health plan. If you meet eligibility requirements, most sessions are free for those with health insurance and Medicare Part D.
5. Is There a Manufacturer Discount?
If you need to stick with your brand name medication, I often direct patients to savings offered directly through the drugmaker. If your finances are tight, you may also be able to get a free supply by calling their customer service. Here are a few savings and patient assistance programs offered by three major insulin manufacturers.
Eli Lilly: Humalog, Humulin, Jardiance, and Trulicity.
Novo Nordisk: Novolog, Levemir, and Victoza.
Sanofi: Admelog, Apidra, and Lantus.
6. What About Nonprofit Assistance Programs?
For medications that may not have a manufacturer assistance program, nonprofits also can be a good resource. My three top resources for my patients are:
The bottom line: Sticker shock doesn’t have to ruin your day. When in doubt, lean on your pharmacist to help you manage your costs and keep your health on track.
This article is not medical advice. It is intended for general informational purposes and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your physician or dial 911.
Blink Health is not insurance. The discount prescription drug provider is Blink Health Administration, LLC, 1407 Broadway, Suite 2100, New York, NY 10018, 1 (844) 265-6444, www.blinkhealth.com.
A pharmacist explains where generics come from, how they can cost so much less, and whether they’re really just as good as their brand name counterparts.
Understanding common (yet confusing) terminology is a first step to making sure you get the right health coverage for your needs.
Consider your local pharmacist a vital part of your care team.