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August 16th, 2011

7 Ways to Save Money on Meds

With all the doctor appointments and wellness activities we engage in, living with HIV/AIDS can be a full-time job. And the truth is, it doesn’t pay very well. We’ve all been feeling the pinch of tough economic times. So I hope you’ll find some savings in this new video blog, “7 Ways to Save Money on Meds.”

Jason King, a pharmacy specialist and patient advocate at AIDS Healthcare Foundation in Ft Lauderdale, was kind enough to give me a tour of their “Out of the Closet” thrift store and then sit down to discuss ways to save money that your pharmacist might not be telling you.

Most of these tips, by the way, can also apply to medications which are not HIV specific. And we have even included a tip just for our HIV-negative friends. I’m an equal opportunity money saver!

copay 2I’m amazed at how many people don’t know about co-pay assistance cards, a program in which the pharmaceutical picks up your co-pay costs. It’s a simple program to use without any income restrictions, and you can save up to $400 per year per medication! Fabulous. Your pharmacy or physician should have cards for you, or Google your medication along with “co-pay assistance” and you should find cards or information to print out.

Specialty pharmacies are a smart move these days. They focus on a particular disease, like HIV, but provide a full spectrum of medications like other pharmacies. The difference is usually service: their technicians are trained in HIV and know more about interactions, for instance, and they are more likely to point out savings opportunities like co-pay cards and patient assistance programs.

When I recently chose a new pharmacy, I went to a specialty pharmacy and just asked them, what can you do for me that Walgreens doesn’t? A lot, as it turns out. They offered free delivery and free shipping anywhere in the continental U.S., and they said they would provide free supplements with a prescription from my doctor! I made the switch, and along with my HIV meds, they provide my vitamins and fish oil at no charge. It pays to ask about perks.

Pharma symbolAIDS Healthcare Foundation pharmacy isn’t the only HIV specialty pharmacy in town. Others include BioScrip and Commcare, and they will all ship to you if you don’t have one in your area.

I was intrigued by the idea of buying generic meds from out of the country, but kept getting the icks. What if they make these meds in some ratty factory somewhere with no quality control? I mean, ick.

A little research put my mind at ease. The helpful folks at AIDSDrugsOnline.net reminded me that people have been purchasing medications from Canada for decades because of the low cost. And India, which produces most of the generic HIV meds available, is the 2nd largest pharmaceutical industry in the world, with FDA-approved facilities.

And the prices. Wow. No wonder people who are without insurance (or in the doughnut hole) are purchasing their meds this way. And there are many others players in this game, such as Canada Prescriptions Plus. Shop around.)

The laws are vague about the legality of this, but at any rate are not enforced. Generally speaking, it appears that people can purchase up to a 90-day supply of a medication from other countries as long as it is for personal use. If you’re shopping around and want to be sure the manufacturer is legit, visit pharmacychecker.com to do your research.

Compounding pharmacies, like APSMeds.com, are able to create special versions of generic medications in whatever strength or format (pill, capsule, liquid) that your physician requests. And their product is a lot less expensive than you are paying for the medication in its regular form! Since they only deal with generics, this is a tip for medications like testosterone gels or Lipitor or Flomax.

Mark and Jason cropFinally, there are patient assistance programs offered by the pharmaceuticals that you might qualify for. There are doughnut hole programs for people with insurance that cover your meds when you fall into that financial abyss, and other programs for people with no insurance at all. The best resource online to navigate your way through these programs is NeedyMeds.org.

Between the co-pay cards and the supplements provided by my specialty pharmacy, I’ll be saving hundreds of dollars on my medications this year. I hope you’ll find similar savings.

Now, if we could create universal healthcare in the great United States, we would not be scrambling to pay for medications, and people from other countries would stop snickering and shaking their heads at the necessity of this blog posting.

Feel free to share/post/like this posting, in case it might save your friends some money! In the meantime, please be well.

Mark

Comments

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11 Responses to “7 Ways to Save Money on Meds”

  1. Tim Evans Says:

    August 16th, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    Hey Mark,
    Thought this article was amazing.
    Being HIV positive is such a complicated issue reaching deeply into our lives…it’s great to know there is someone who cares enough to share this kind of information to make things a little easier.
    BTW i live in the Uk and i would never snicker or shake my head. In fact my reaction to the need for this blog posting to exist is anger.
    Best wishes from London.
    Tim Evans.

  2. Chris Companik Says:

    August 16th, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    Hi Mark,

    Seems like your video or article is tapping into the same ether that my strip is in the middle of. My strip-in-process will deal with my attempt to get Serostim and whether ADAP or Medicare will cover it, as well as what the co-pay will be, balancing donut holes, etc. With the more pressing upcoming dental work has to have money set aside, it’s harder to figure out what and to do if I wait till the beginning of the calendar year. But when you drop around 40 pounds in just three months, something’s got to give,

    Thanks,
    Chris

  3. Sue Says:

    August 18th, 2011 at 9:23 am

    What great information for anyone in need of meds.
    Thank you

  4. Bob Says:

    August 18th, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Thanks Mark and Jason. Very useful information for these trying times.

  5. Martin I Says:

    August 19th, 2011 at 7:51 pm

    I had heard from a reliable source that people on Medicare could NOT use co-pay assistance cards; they are in violation of some Medicare rule. Is this true???? This would impact some of savings here.
    (Yes, we do mention in the video that people on Medicare are not eligible for the co-pay cards, which kinda sucks. — Mark)

  6. Mike Says:

    August 21st, 2011 at 8:37 am

    Hmmm…
    Use co-pay cards with medicare. Illegal.
    Order generics from Canada/India. Illegal.
    I get a $200 discount on Atripla with a co-pay assistance card bringing my cost down to $1450 a month.
    My choices: Break the law or go broke.
    Fabulous.

  7. Subversive Librarian Says:

    August 23rd, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    As usual, Mark, your blog has information that’s useful for pretty much anybody. That’s a testament, I think, to the broad impact that AiDS/HIV activism has had on the health-care industry at large.

  8. Jonathan Says:

    September 9th, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    So, Mark, have you adopted Jason yet? Another GREAT video. Thanx

  9. alex Says:

    September 12th, 2011 at 9:03 am

    So, I now see that aids-drugs-online no longer exists??? NICE! So, the pharma companies made it illegal? Anyone know whats up with this?? I HATE to be tied to insurance, that SUCKS!
    (They have had problems with their server in the past, but now their site seems to be down altogether. I’ll let you know. — Mark)

  10. Chris Says:

    March 12th, 2012 at 6:24 am

    Discount meds can be even got online from International Drug Mart with out co-pay cards.

  11. mitch Says:

    August 9th, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    Depending on which type of medication you use, there usually is some sort of co-pay assistance available from the manufacturer. If you go to Medicationcoupons.com you can basically do a 1 stop search for all different types of meds. Plus, they also offer a free drug card that can be used on prescription meds not covered by insurance.

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