How to Get Prescription Medication Without Health Insurance

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Prescription medicine bottles
Prescription medicine bottles (Image: RCarner/iStock/Getty Images)

Discovering ways to save money on prescription medications is especially important for people who have no drug coverage and foot the entire bill on their own. However, one thing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns consumers not to do is purchase discount medications online from unreliable sources. There are much less risky alternatives, including generics and discount programs designed to protect both you and your wallet.

Investigate Generic Medications

Generic drugs are a safe and affordable alternative to name-brand medications. According to FDA regulations, a generic drug must contain the exact same active ingredients and perform approximately the same in the body as its brand-name equivalent. However, prices for generics are about 85 percent less than a brand-name drug, mainly because the FDA does not require generic drug manufacturers to repeat the clinical trials that brand name drugs go through and manufacturers usually do not spend much on marketing and promotion.

Find Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs

Drug manufacturers commonly have assistance programs that make prescription drugs either free or much more affordable. For example, Merck & Co. and AstraZeneca have patient assistance programs that cover a variety of prescription drugs. In general, these programs are only available if you do not have health insurance and if your income falls within certain limits. To help you find programs for which you may be eligible, organizations such the Partnership for Prescription Assistance and Rx Hope have look-up tools on their websites.

Look for Discount Prescription Programs

A number of companies offer free enrollment in programs that can help you save on prescription drug costs. Some cover a variety of medications, and some cover only certain drugs. For example, BirthControlCard.com offers a free drug card that can reduce the cost of birth control by up to 75 percent. Other companies, such as Needymeds and UnaRxCard.com, offer discount programs that cover a variety of drugs.

Some Smart Shopping Tips

Comparison shop before filling a new prescription for long-term refills, as prices can change monthly. Drug prices can vary considerably between pharmacies even in the same neighborhood. One reason for this is that the federal government does not regulate drug prices. Another reason is that pharmacies commonly reduce their overhead costs by charging a dispensing fee. You may be able to save money on the dispensing fee by purchasing a larger quantity, such as a three-month supply, instead of getting a monthly refill.

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