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On average, Americans spend $1,200 per person on prescription drugs every year. Certain medications are shockingly expensive. For example, Revlimid, a prescription that treats blood cancer, runs around $20,000 for a 30-day supply. To say that most people can’t afford a price tag like that is an understatement. But, even if you can’t shoulder the cost of your medications, that doesn’t mean you have to skip your meds. It is possible to get free medicine from drug makers. If your prescription costs are too high to manage, here’s what you need to know about this option.
Free Medicine Through Patient Assistance Programs
Most major drug manufacturers offer a patient assistance program (PAP). Also known as a pharmaceutical assistance program, it is designed to help individuals who may not be able to afford their medication without some help. While the programs focus mainly on the uninsured and underinsured, others may also qualify.
If you are eligible for the PAP, then you’ll get access to free or low-cost medication from that manufacturer. Precisely how that unfolds varies by program, so you’ll have to go over the details to determine how the drug maker ensures you aren’t stuck with the financial burden.
However, it could involve the drug maker shipping your prescription straight to your door or directly to your doctor. When this occurs, either you or your doctor will need to play your refills well in advance. It can take several weeks for new orders to arrive, so you’ll have to be on top of things to ensure you don’t run out of your meds.
Qualifying for Free Medicine from Drug Manufacturers
Every PAP has different eligibility criteria. Usually, the biggest determining factor is your household’s income. Since a PAP is meant to help those who can’t afford their medication, your household’s income has to be below a particular line. That limit is set by the drug maker, though it’s typically higher than the limit for Medicaid eligibility.
The manufacturer may also take other factors into consideration. For instance, some drug makers also gather information about your assets. You might have to provide details about any investment accounts, for example. When that occurs, even if your income is low, if your investment account balance is healthy, you might not be eligible for the PAP.
Can You Use More Than One PAP?
Generally, yes, you can use more than one PAP at a time. If you have medications made by different companies and meet each manufacturer’s PAP requirements, you may be able to get free prescriptions from both drug makers.
Normally, the only time you couldn’t use multiple PAPs is if they would be covering the same medication. That typically isn’t an issue with drug maker PAPs. However, there are other PAPs that aren’t tied to one manufacturer. They may be more restrictive about using more than one program
Ultimately, it’s always best to read the fine print to find out before you move forward with any PAP. That way, you’ll know if there are any potential issues ahead of time.
The Largest Drug Manufacturer PAPs
Certain PAPs are particularly large. They are run by major drug manufacturers who produce a wide variety of medications. As a result, there may be a significant number of people who could use (and qualify for) assistance, and they have the financial means to alleviate patients of the burden.
Here are just some of the largest drug manufacturer PAPs:
- Gilead Advancing Access Program
- GSK Patient Assistance Program
- Lilly Cares Foundation Patient Assistance Program
- Merck Helps Patient Assistant Program
- Novartis Patient Assistance
- Novo Nordisk Patient Assistance Program
- Pfizer RxPathways
Smaller drug makers may also have their own programs. If you have a medication not made by one of the manufacturers above, consider doing a search. You can use the Medicare PAP finder or use a search engine.
If you go the latter route, do exercise caution. There are PAP scams out there. For example, if you have to pay a fee to apply, it’s a scam.
In most cases, if you head to the manufacturer’s website first, you can access details about its PAP from there, if one’s available. That may be a safer road than using a search engine as you’re starting out on the drug maker’s site.
What to Do Before the PAP Kicks In
Even if you qualify for a PAP, it can take time for your application to process or for you to receive your benefits. If you need medication immediately that you can’t afford, speak with your doctor as soon as possible. They may be able to provide you with some free sample packets to cover the gap, ensuring you can remain on your prescription.
Additionally, your doctor may know about other programs in your area that can help. That way, you can get your medications during the period before the PAP kicks in.
Do you know of any other tips that can help people save on their prescriptions? Tell us about them in the comments below.
I’ve seen some tragic situations over the years when people can’t afford their meds. For example, I’ve met organ transplant patients who couldn’t pay for their anti-rejection drugs and ended up losing the organ they had struggled so hard to receive. I, myself, have dealt with some terrible withdrawal symptoms when I couldn’t access my mental health medications. Therefore, I know firsthand how important it is to learn how to save money on prescription medication.
Talk to Professionals to Save Money on Prescription Medication
The first step to take if you’re struggling to pay for your prescription medications is to ask for help. There are several different types of professionals that you can talk to about how to save money on prescription medication.
Talk to Your Doctor
Your first line of defense against expensive prescription medication is the person who prescribes the meds. Talk to your doctor. In fact, you may need to talk to multiple doctors: a general doctor, a specialist, a psychiatrist, etc.
Be very upfront with these professionals about how hard it is for you to pay for your prescription medications. Ask them what the options are. Oftentimes, they’ll be able to provide solutions. It might be as simple as changing the prescription to something more affordable that still works for you. Alternatively, they may be able to write a letter explaining to your health insurance why you need that specific medication.
Furthermore, your doctor may be able to offer samples and coupons to help you save money on prescription medication. At the very least, when your doctor knows that you are struggling, you’ll have someone there to help you manage symptoms related to not accessing your medication.
Talk to Your Pharmacist
Your pharmacist is another great resource to help you find ways to save money on prescription medications. They are familiar with all of the meds. They know what type of discounts are available, which insurance covers certain costs, and what generic versions of medications are available.
They may or may not be able to actually offer you a discount. Perhaps they’ll know of certain tricks, such as saving money by getting a 90-day supply instead of a 30-day supply. However, even if they can’t solve the problem, they can often point you in the right direction to find someone who can help.
Ask Your Health Insurance How to Save Money on Prescription Medication
Oftentimes, the biggest problem is that your health insurance doesn’t cover the medication that you need. Or it doesn’t pay very much of the cost. Therefore, you can go straight to your health insurance provider to get help.
If you have the option to visit your health insurance provider in person, then that’s your best bet. If not, then be prepared to wait on the phone for a significant amount of time before you reach the person who can help you. If you are persistent, they are often able to find some resolution.
You may need to discuss getting a different plan with your health insurance provider. Alternatively, they may be able to tell you what some other drug options are to reduce your costs. Then you can take that information back to your doctor to see if those medications would work for you.
Contact the Drug Manufacturer
There are certain prescription medications that are just very expensive. However, the drug manufacturers know that they have customers who can’t afford those high fees. Therefore, they often offer ways to reduce the costs of those medications.
For example, they may offer a discount program. They may provide samples or coupons. You never know unless you ask. Therefore, you should ask.
Find an Advocate
If you have tried all of these different outlets and you still can’t afford your medications, then it’s time to look for an advocate. Your therapist could be an ally in this. If you have a case manager, then they might be able to help. Alternatively, look for a lawyer, a local group, or a friend who has knowledge about how to deal with the prescription medication and health insurance industries. It helps to have someone in your corner who knows the language.
Common Ways to Save Money on Prescription Medication
Talking to professionals is your best route to save money on prescription medication. However, it helps a lot if you know what to ask for. Moreover, there are some things that you can try for yourself. Here are some of the most common ways that people save money on prescription medication:
Change the Medication
When talking to these professionals, find out if you have the option to switch to a more affordable medication. If there is a generic version of the same pill, then try that. If there’s a similar medication that’s cheaper, then try that. Always work with your doctor when switching meds, of course.
Change the Amount of Medication
Sometimes you can save money on prescription medication just by changing the number of pills that you order. A 60-day or 90-day supply may be cheaper per pill than a 30-day supply. Furthermore, it can reduce the number of times you pay a co-pay.
Also, ask about getting a stronger dose that you can split in half. For example, get a prescription for 45 days of a pill that’s twice the strength you need then cut those in half and you have medication for 90 days.
Shop with Coupons
Drug manufacturers offer coupons to reduce the cost of medications. You can also sometimes find other coupons online for various meds. Take a look at what’s out there before you pay full price.
Shop Around with a Tool Like GoodRx
How much you pay for your prescriptions depends on a variety of factors. One of those is the location where you buy the pills. Therefore, you can save money on prescription medication just by shopping around. You can use a comparison shopping tool such as GoodRx to easily find the least expensive option near you for the medications that you need. You may discover that you need to visit a few different pharmacies to get the best price if you have multiple prescriptions. Given the high cost of meds, that can be well worth the effort.
Make Sure You Have the Right Health Insurance
If you haven’t reviewed your health insurance options recently then make sure that you do so. Find out whether you have the right plan in terms of the medications they cover, your co-pays, and your monthly payment. Moreover, see if you qualify for any low-income programs in your area to help you save money on prescription medications. In addition to Medicare/Medicaide, there are often state programs that help pay the premiums and/or co-pays for people with limited income.