Ask Mrs. Riches: The High Cost of Meds

Dear Mrs. Riches:
My parents are on a modest fixed income that they have managed to stretch to cover their basic expenses adequately. However, they are getting on in years, and each doctor's visit seems to bring a new high-priced medication that must be taken on a daily basis. Now, their medications cost upwards of $500 a month, and the amount keeps climbing. My mom is fretting about how they'll continue to manage; my dad is tight-lipped and tense. Have any suggestions for how I can help?

--Concerned Daughter

Dear Concerned Daughter:
The pinch you describe is felt by many members of our aging population (and anyone who relies on daily medication). Luckily, there are lots of ways you can help your parents. Here are a few money-saving strategies suggested by experts Dr. Michael Cecil, author of Drugs for Less: The Complete Guide to Free and Discounted Drugs, and Michelle Katz, author of Healthcare for Less:

  • Get a copy of your parents' insurance formulary to bring on doctor appointments. Insurance companies maintain a list of approved drugs (those for which they will cover a portion of the cost). Your folks' doctors may be able to choose their drugs from the formulary that will both treat their conditions and help them save.
  • Ask their doctors about generic alternatives, free samples, or cheaper forms (tablets versus caplets, for example) of the medications in question.
  • Use Costco's pharmacy. Wholesalers can help you save big, and no membership is required for prescription purchases.
  • Buy in bulk. You may be able to save by purchasing a 90-day supply of medication, rather than the standard 30-day prescription. Ask their doctors to write the prescriptions this way; this small effort can translate into big savings.
  • Comparison-shop via phone. All pharmacies aren't necessarily equal when it comes to price. Call around to determine which pharmacy in your area offers the biggest savings.
  • Use mail-order. If your folks' insurance company has a mail-order prescription program, it's sure to help you save. Plus, you can re-order without ever leaving home.

You can definitely help your parents cut their prescription drug costs with these strategies. They're still likely to shell out a lot -- high-priced pharmaceuticals seem here to stay -- but hopefully not enough to break the bank. Best of luck!

Want more advice about saving on high-cost prescriptions? Try:

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