5 Best Hacks to Save on Drugs Without Insurance

Drug prices continue to consume more of our hard earned dollars due to poor regulation in America. If you find yourself trying to fill prescriptions without insurance you are vulnerable to being ripped off the most. Below are the 5 best hacks I can recommend to save money when buying prescription drugs without insurance

1. Talk About Cost With Your Doctor or Pharmacist

A study by consumer reports showed that prescribers often don’t consider or aren’t aware of the cost of medications when they write your prescription. The best option is for you to speak up and initiate that conversation.

Will a Cheaper Generic Drug Work?

Production and marketing of generic medications is regulated by the FDA just the same as their more expensive Brand name counterparts. Generics contain the same active ingredient in the same amounts as the brand name drugs with the only difference being the fillers used in the formulation. Testing is required to prove they are equivalent.

Make sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist is a cheaper generic medication will be effective to treat your condition.

Get Samples or a Free Trial Card

Pharmaceutical drug reps often provide sample bottles of expensive brand name medications as part of their marketing strategy to get doctors to prescribe and patients to use their medications.

If your doctor or pharmacist tells you there isn’t a generic alternative that will work and your stuck with the expensive brand name medication check with your doctor to see if they have any samples they can give to you.

Doctors are usually only able to give samples for a short period of time so this is not a permanent fix. If you can’t afford the brand name medication after you run out of samples make sure to check out the manufacturer website to see if they offer a prescription assistance program.

Will an OTC Medication Work?

If you are treating a simple condition like allergies, heartburn, lice, intestinal parasite, cough or cold, dry eye, etc there may be an over-the-counter medication that will work.

I’ve had patient prescribed a medication for intestinal parasites named Albenza that costs hundreds of dollars. I recommended the OTC alternative Reese’s Pin Worm which costs under $10 and it worked to clear up their issue.

Many OTC heartburn medications are exactly the same as the prescription strength versions. Sometimes they are available in only half the strength OTC but all you have to do is take 2 doses instead of one.

These are just a few examples so just take a second and ask your doctor or pharmacist if there is an OTC medication to treat your condition.

Can You Split Tablets?

Another “insider trick” is to get your doctor to write for a higher strength tablet of your medication, buy an inexpensive tablet splitter, and split the tablets in half to reach your correct dose.

Pro Tip

Make sure to check with your pharmacist to ensure the medication you are prescribed can be split. There are some medications, such as time released formulations, cannot be split. It’s also not safe to split very potent medications where small changes in the dose can be dangerous. Examples of this cae include thyroid medications and blood thinners.

When pill splitting you save money because you are paying for only half as many tablets.

Are Tablets or Capsules Cheaper?

There are some drugs that are available in both tablets and capsules. There can be a stark difference in the price of each dosage form.

For instance, Fluoxetine 20mg is available in both capsules and tablets. Using the Singlecare pricing tool you can see that Walmart sells 30 capsules for $4 but the tablets cost $60.16 at the time this article was written.

Another example is Venlafaxine ER 150mg. Again the capsule version is $9 for a 30 capsules at Walmart using the Singlecare Discount Card but the tablet formulation is $97.74 at the time this article was written.

Pro Tip

Ask your doctor to write on the prescription that the pharmacist may substitute either the tablet or capsule whichever is cheaper.

Immediate Release vs Extended Release

Many medications are available in immediate release formulations which you may have to take multiple times a day or an extended release version that you only have to take once or twice daily.

In every instance the extended release version, despite its convenience, is the more expensive medication. Unless you have a medical need or have trouble remembering to take your medications ask your pharmacist if a cheaper immediate release formulation of your medication is available.

Metoprolol is an example of this instance. It is available in an immediate release version which is super cheaper but the extended release formulation is twice the cost or more.

2. Use a Prescription Discount

Prescription discount cards are one of the best ways to fight the high cost of prescription drugs. They use the power of group purchasing to negotiate significantly reduced rates on prescription medications.

The best prescription savings cards can save you up to 95% off of the cash price of your medications. Although, the average savings is more around 50%. Make sure you learn more about how rx discount cards work before you use on though because the best prescription discount card to use in your situation depends on a number of factors.

3. Try an Online Pharmacy

Using an online pharmacy can be one of the best ways to save money when buying prescriptions without insurance. You have to be very careful and diligent in which pharmacy you use however.

Healthwarehouse is the #1 trusted online pharmacy in America. It is headquartered in Florence, Kentucky and has great reviews. Healthwarehouse is licensed to ship to all 50 states and has all the proper accreditations to ensure they are legitimate.

Check out their extremely low pricing on generic medications and see how easy it is to transfer or fill your prescription with them. They will ship your prescription directly to your door within a few days free of charge!

4. See if a Pharmacy Near You Offers a Discount Drug Program

Grocery store pharmacies and many independently owned pharmacies offer comprehensive lists of the cheapest generics to treat the most common conditions. Many of the pharmacies offer the medications on these lists for $4 for a 30 day supply or $10 for a 90 day supply.

Some pharmacies like Publix, Family Fare, and Meijer even offer free medications to treat conditions like high blood pressure, cholesterol, and oral diabetes medications, and prenatal vitamins.

The large corporate chain pharmacies offer “discount clubs” that you can buy a membership for that offer many of the same medications on the discount lists at the grocery stores for slightly higher prices.

It doesn’t make sense to pay for the membership to these programs unless you are going to save more on your medications over the year than the price of the membership itself.

5. Find Out if You Qualify For a Prescription Assistance Program

Pharmaceutical Manufacturers

Pharmaceutical companies are required to offer prescription assistance programs to low income individuals. You can check to see if the drug you are prescribed has an assistance program and the income limits on PPAR.org.

These programs require you to submit proof of your income in addition to having your doctor sign some forms to verify your eligibility and necessity of the medication.

If you do qualify the manufacturer will either send you a saving card that you use at your local pharmacy to get the medication for free or at a very discounted rate or they may send the medication for you to your doctors office to pick up each month.

Non-Profit and Faith-Based Organizations

If you don’t qualify for a prescription assistance program from the drug maker themselves or you are on a generic medication but still can’t afford it there is still hope.

Many non-profit organization or churches have programs in place for people to ask for help to pay for their medications. Asking your church leader or doing a quick google search for your disease state and “assistance program” should turn up some results.


As a practicing community pharmacist in his home state of Michigan, Joe (AKA TheFrugalPharmacist) is always on the lookout for new information and ways to ensure you can afford your medications and don't get ripped off in America's complicated world of healthcare.

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