What you can do if you can’t afford your medication

If you can’t afford your medication, have a conversation with your doctor before stopping it or taking less than prescribed.

If you can’t afford your medications, there are steps you can take.

First, don’t skip doses or take less than prescribed. Talk to your doctor about cheaper alternatives, ask your pharmacist about options and check for any state or drug industry programs that might help.

“There are times when a less effective, cheaper alternative treatment is the right choice for a patient. Many expensive drugs are unaffordable, while others aren’t worth the cost,” said Jason L. Crowell, M.D., MPA, a neurologist specializing in movement disorders at Norton Neuroscience Institute.

Helping patients understand their options when they can’t afford their medication is a passion for Dr. Crowell. In his practice, it’s common for him to have patients with rare neurological conditions that could be helped by a medication costing thousands of dollars.

He often discusses the price of medication with his patients.

“As a physician, I want to know if the treatments I prescribe are inducing financial toxicity in my patients. I routinely ask patients about side effects of their medicine, and a drug’s cost is often its most significant side effect,” Dr. Crowell said. “It’s important we consider the big picture regarding the tests and treatments we recommend, including how it affects a patient’s mental health, family members and other areas of life. Affordability is a big part of that.”

He encourages patients to talk to their health care providers about the financial challenges their medication or other care may create and what they have to sacrifice. Being open about out-of-pocket expenses at the doctor’s office or pharmacy or for lab work and other tests can open the door to a conversation about alternatives.

Discuss your insurance coverage with your health care provider and seek to find a middle ground that addresses your conditions in an affordable way.

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Talk to your primary care provider about age, family history and ways to prevent dementia.

If you can’t afford medication

  • Some medications may be cheaper at another pharmacy. If you have health insurance, check with your insurance provider to see if your plan has a preferred pharmacy where your benefit may be better. You also may be able to save money by requesting a 90-day prescription or using a mail-order service.
  • Your provider may be able to switch your medication to a generic and/or cheaper alternative.
  • Drug discount cards, such as GoodRx, can help you save on prescriptions. You can find discount cards and participating pharmacies online, or ask your pharmacist.
  • Manufacturer coupons and copay cards: Some drug companies offer discount coupons to patients with commercial insurance plans. Medicare and Tricare plans are excluded from copay cards.
  • Medicare’s Extra Help program: If you have Medicare, you may be eligible for extra help with prescription costs. Call (800) MEDICARE (633-4227) to find out if you qualify.
    • For example, Indiana’s HoosierRx program helps low-income older adults pay their Medicare Part D premiums and the prescription coverage under a Medicare Advantage plan.
  • Patient assistance programs: Some drug companies have assistance programs that may offer prescription drugs at little to no cost, depending on eligibility. If you have run out of other options, ask your provider or pharmacist if you qualify for any assistance programs. You may be able to apply through the drug manufacturer’s website.
    • For example, the Kentucky Prescription Assistance Program helps those who qualify find free or reduced-cost prescription drugs through the drug companies’ assistance programs, discount drug programs and discount pharmacy programs.

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