Save Money on Prescription Medicines

worried senior man looks at a collection of his daily medications

Only about half of medicines prescribed by health care providers are taken correctly, according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Reasons why patients may misuse medications can include forgetting to take them, not understanding the directions, and disliking the side effects. But the FDA also says many people stop taking their medicine, skip doses, or delay filling a prescription to save money.

Not taking medicine as instructed by a doctor or pharmacist can be dangerous. According to the FDA, it can lead to your disease getting worse, a trip to the hospital, or in the worst cases, even death.

The FDA recommends these strategies to cut down on prescription medicine costs:

  • Tell your doctor if you have a problem paying for prescription drugs. Ask whether there are generic or over-the-counter options that would work just as well, or another brand of the drug that may cost less.
  • Find out whether another insurance option or Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage can benefit you and your family members.
  • Check to see whether you are eligible for drug assistance programs in your state.
  • Check with the pharmaceutical companies that provide your medicines to find out whether you qualify for assistance programs.
  • Shop around your neighborhood or look for legitimate online pharmacies that have better prices on prescription drugs. The FDA recommends purchasing only from state-licensed pharmacies that are located in the United States. Also make sure the pharmacy knows about everything you’re taking – including over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, and supplements.

If you are taking more than one prescription or over-the-counter drug, vitamin, or supplement, or caring for someone who is, managing them can be complicated. Here are some tips to make the job easier:

  • Keep a chart of your daily medication schedule and follow it exactly.
  • Take your medication at the same time every day.
  • Tie taking your medications with a daily routine such as brushing your teeth.
  • Take the exact dosage prescribed. Use a weekly or daily pill organizer to avoid mix-ups.
  • Store medications in their original containers.
  • Don’t take medication in the dark, or when you’re tired or distracted.
  • When traveling, bring extra medication in case your return is delayed. Keep medication in your carry-on baggage in case your luggage is lost.
  • If you experience unexpected or unpleasant side effects from your medication, talk to your doctor. Don’t simply stop taking it.

And remember these safety tips:

  • Don’t drink alcohol with your medications unless your doctor has told you it’s safe.
  • Never take medications prescribed for someone else.
  • Lock up medications to keep them from children.
  • Properly dispose of medications that your doctor has told you to stop taking, or that have expired. If no disposal instructions came with the medication, ask your pharmacist how to do so safely.

Download our printable medicine chart to help you keep track of all your medicines.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master's-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.


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