Pay Less for Your Medicine

Marc Lichtenfeld By Marc Lichtenfeld, Chief Income Strategist, The Oxford Club

Health and Wellness

Tuesday, President Trump tweeted that he’s working on a “new system” for the drug industry and that pricing will come way down.

I’m not holding my breath.

More than any other industry, the drug lobby owns Congress. And it’s not going to take a “new system” that crushes its profits lying down.

Additionally, new therapies take many years and hundreds of millions of dollars to develop and bring to market. Investors, scientists and executives need incentives to allocate their time, capital and resources into researching these medicines.

If the profit potential isn’t there, new medicines won’t be discovered.

So it appears we’re stuck with the current system that makes some medicines unaffordable to many Americans.

But there are various ways you can drastically lower the cost of your prescriptions. In some cases, you’ll get your medicine for free.

And most of these services won’t cost you anything.

Find Affordable Alternatives

You may be shocked to learn that the same medicine can cost hundreds of dollars more at one pharmacy versus another that’s literally down the street.

GoodRx is a great site that shows you which pharmacies near you offer your medicine at the lowest prices. It also provides you with special discounts and coupons that you can use for extra savings.

And it’s completely free.

I searched for the lowest prices for 30 tablets of depression fighter Abilify in Madison, Mississippi (prices vary depending on location). The cheapest was $93, with a coupon provided by GoodRx, at a Kroger pharmacy. The most expensive was $392, also with a coupon, at a Rite Aid.

Pardon my language, but that’s a hell of a difference.

If you’re in Davenport, Iowa, and are taking Nexavar for kidney cancer, there’s an $800 per month difference between the least and most expensive options.

When you sign up, if you mention that you have Medicare Part D or Advantage plans, it’ll show you the price you’ll pay for a drug on your plan.


GoodRx even has discounts and coupons on medication for your pets.

You can download the GoodRx app on your phone so you can check prices on your way out of the doctor’s office when you have a prescription in hand.

The site and app are very easy to use. Unless you have a relationship with a pharmacist that knows you and the various medications that you’re taking, consider shopping around for the lowest price using GoodRx.

You could save hundreds or even thousands of dollars a month.

Assistance Programs: Do You Qualify?

The Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA) is a free service that helps patients without drug coverage get reduced or free medicine.

It offers access to 475 programs, including more than 200 biopharmaceutical companies. Launched in 2005, PPA has helped connect nearly 10 million patients.

PPA also provides information for nearly 10,000 free healthcare clinics.

To use PPA, you simply fill out a questionnaire that does not require identifying personal information – though you do need to list drugs you’re taking, your income and what type of insurance you have, if any, so that you can be matched to the right programs.

I filled out a questionnaire saying I lived in Florida, was 65 years old and had an annual income of $100,000. I put in a high income because I wanted to see if there were any programs for seniors that are doing well financially but still face high drug costs. I entered three drugs, including an expensive one for a rare disease.

It matched me up with a program called Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders (SHINE), offered by the Florida Department of Elder Affairs. I would then call SHINE’s number to see what it could do for me.

I entered another profile. This one was a 54-year-old patient in upstate New York taking three drugs, including two heart medicines. I said my household income was $60,000 per year and my insurance was an HMO with no drug coverage.

PPA matched me with Rx Outreach, a nonprofit agency that helps provide affordable medication.

There are also programs run by drug companies themselves that provide free medicine to those in need.

A Helping Hand

Simplefill is a full-service prescription assistance program that works directly with patients to help them obtain medication at a lower cost or for free.

It charges $45 per month for help with one medication, $85 for two to five medications, $95 for six to eight,  $105 for nine to 11 and $115 for 12 or more.

You can also sign up to have Simplefill help you manage a specific disease for $45 per month for nine months. Simplefill guarantees you will get at least $2,000 in funding to use toward treating the specific disease.

Simplefill refunds all charges (except for a $10 processing fee) if the patient isn’t approved for a program. It accepts only patients it believes have a 95% chance of receiving a grant.

The other free services mentioned above provide you with resources, but you have to do all the work to get the reduced or free medicine. While you pay for Simplefill, it takes care of everything for you.

Simplefill will provide personal advice on the best way to lower your drug costs and  helps you through the sign-up processes of various programs. Its monthly fees include…

  • Finding programs that will provide you with free or discounted medication
  • Completing program applications on your behalf, with the exception of the signature
  • Working directly with your doctor for their portion of the paperwork
  • Automatically processing refills
  • Contacting doctors when a new prescription is required.

There are other free and fee-based programs that can help you cut your medication costs. Just do a Google search if these three don’t work for you.

There’s no reason to pay full price for expensive medicines. Many free services are available to help you save hundreds of dollars (or more) per month on your medications.

Maybe President Trump’s “new system” will make services like these obsolete, and we’ll all have cheap medicine…

But don’t count on it.

Good investing,

Marc

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