From Pharmacy Drug Guide
Cost-conscious consumers have numerous options to save on drugs. First of all, Drug Coupons may offer significant short-term savings. Free samples may also be available from doctors' offices and manufacturers. Consumers may also be able to save on medications by switching to generic forms of prescription and nonprescription or over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. Generics only come out after the original brand's patent has expired, which means that newer drugs will not have generic equivalents.
Coupons and free samples are usually only available with brand-name drugs, although stores may run specials on their own generic products from time to time. Another savings option is the drug discount card. Some plans partner with major pharmacies to offer percentage-based discounts on generic drugs.
Many patient assistance programs are also available for prescription medications, and may cover brand-name or generic versions. Often, patients are required to establish need, such as low income and lack of insurance, in order to qualify for these programs.
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Drug coupons are available for prescription and over-the-counter medications. Coupons for prescription drugs may be available from the manufacturer, and are often found on the medication website. However, patients must obtain a doctor's prescription before redeeming them. Manufacturers may also have cards or programs available to lower the cost of new prescriptions, or for several months of refills. Doctors also sometimes have for both prescription and nonprescription medications.
Coupons for OTC medications may be available from the manufacturer's website as well, and they are also found in national magazines and newspaper coupon sections. It is also possible to contact the manufacturer by phone and obtain coupons by mail. Stores, like drugstores and grocery stores, have OTC drug coupons in their weekly and monthly advertising circulars.
About Drug Coupons
Free Drug Samples
Free drug samples are available for both prescription drugs and OTC drugs. They are often available at doctors' offices, and may be packaged with coupons to help lower the cost of purchasing the medication when the samples run out. Free samples may also be available from the manufacturer, either by mail or through a printable online coupon.
Drug samples are useful when a patient is starting a new medication. Doctors can give samples to patients so that they can try the medication before paying for a prescription. Many doctors will also give samples to patients, when samples are available, if the patient is having difficulty affording a prescription.
Sometimes drug manufacturers offer vouchers for free trials, or even free first prescriptions, through their websites.
While free drug samples may appear to save consumers money, research shows that sample recipients, on average, pay more in the long run than those who do not receive samples. This is because long-term use of branded medications, the only type that typically offer free samples, is more expensive than using generics. In addition, although pharmaceutical companies claim that free samples help the needy, most samples actually go to affluent and insured patients.
Patient Assistance Programs
Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs) are support programs offered by manufacturers, as well as some government agencies and other organizations. These health discount plans provide prescription drugs for free or at a reduced cost. Some programs have eligibility criteria, such as income limitations and lack of insurance, others are available to all. Typically, PAPs operated by drug manufacturers have tighter restrictions, but may dispense free medication to those who qualify.
Manufacturer-operated patient assistance programs are voluntary and may make the companies seem altruistic, but only four percent disclose how many people they actually help. In addition, undisclosed eligibility criteria is an issue for more than half, and medical experts question whether the programs are helping enough people when over a quarter of the population has gone without a prescription due to high cost, and over a third have a hard time affording their medicine.
Drug Discount Cards
There are several types of drug discount cards. Some, like the Pfizer Pfriends card, are distributed by drug manufacturers. Most of these are for uninsured patients, but some, such as GSK Access, are available to Medicare Part D patients. State governments also sometimes offer drug discount cards to residents who have low incomes. Some such programs are only available to people of certain demographics, such as mothers or handicapped individuals. Many national chain drug retailers, such as Walmart and Walgreens, offer discount cards for purchases made at their in-store pharmacies.
While many drug discount cards are free, some charge membership fees or per-purchase fees. Some cards may seem to offer savings, but are not actually good deals when consumers factor in the costs. Even with free, brand-name drug savings cards, generic drugs may be the cheaper option for many types of medications. In addition, some cards only provide discounts on in-store purchases, but not mail orders.
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