Personal Finance and Prescriptions

These days, medical expenses are a big burden to many family’s budgets. Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to figure out just how and when you can save money without endangering your health. However, here are some tips that could save you plenty of money on your prescriptions.

Costco, Sam’s Club, and Other Warehouse Clubs

It is no secret that places like Costco and Sam’s Club have pharmacies, and yes, they have good prices on prescriptions as well. Not a member? No problem. Most states have laws requiring any business establishment to permit public access to the pharmacy. In other words, you can march right into Sam’s Club without a membership and have your prescription filled. Just tell the person at the door that you are having a prescription filled in the pharmacy and they’ll let you right in. These places tend to train their people pretty well on this rule so they don’t get into trouble.

The one catch is that both Costco and Sam’s Club have restrictive payment options so make sure you have the right kind of credit card or are prepared to pay by check. For more expensive prescriptions this may not be a very palatable option, so if you are going to go this route a lot, look into a no annual fee version of the right credit card.

Wal-Mart and $4 Prescriptions

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you no doubt have heard about Wal-mart introducing $4 prescriptions for certain medications. Keep in mind that this is only for certain GENERIC prescriptions. You can’t get a generic version of a drug that is still under patent protection. However, if you are getting a prescription for an “extended release” or other “all day” type prescription and are responsible enough to take more than one dose per day, see if there is a non-extended version availible and discuss having your doctor re-write your prescription to it. A sneaky trick that a lot of pharmaceutical companies use is to sell a “regular” release formula for the full length of the patent. Then, just as the patent is about to expire they come out with a “new” extended release version and get a few more years of patent protection to sell that one. The regular version is just as good, only you’ll have to take it more than once a day. If it’s generic it might be on the $4 list. If not, it will still be a lot cheaper than the brand name extended formula is.

Other stores are following Wal-mart’s move. Target offers a list of $4 prescriptions as well. Here in Colorado, Safeway offers a list. One thing to keep an eye out for is stores that will match other prices. That means you could be getting your prescription for $4, but only if you ask!


Obviously, the best scenario is to have good insurance. But, even if you do, chances are you pay a smaller co-pay for generic drugs. Also, there is a good chance that you can get a discount if you buy certain “maintenance” drugs via mail. With this system, you get a 90-day supply for a 60-day price or something along those lines. This can save you a lot if you have multiple prescriptions. Make sure it is worth it to you though. Someone with asthma getting a generic inhaler once a month probably isn’t going to save enough to make it worth the hassle.

Shop Around

The price difference between pharmacies can be huge! In general, the big box stores like Target and Wal-mart will have cheaper prices than stand alone pharmacies. Walgreens can be one of the most expensive, so you might want to check. Most places don’t list prices on the Internet, but they’ll be willing to tell you if you call, especially if you say you are thinking about transferring a prescription. Call up Target, or whoever, and say, “I’m thinking about switching my whatever prescription over to you. Can you tell me what it would cost? Have your bottle ready because they’ll probably ask you questions you don’t know the answer to. “Is that the diffused formula or the titrated formula?” It probably says on the bottle.

1 thought on “Personal Finance and Prescriptions”

  1. Some good tips you have here. More and more places are making some generics available for $4. Safeway just added $4 prescriptions here in Maryland. It was the first grocery chain to do so. Wonder if others will follow.


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