How to Save on Asthma Medications: Online Pharmacies, Discount Programs and More

How to Save on Asthma Medications: Online Pharmacies, Discount Programs and More

If you have moderate or severe asthma, you probably already know that drugs to control your condition come at a high cost—perhaps hundreds of dollars per month. Finding less-expensive options is important, and doing so may require you to use online pharmacies, discount programs and other resources. While there are many lifestyle factors that can help you to live with asthma, asthma medications are often necessary. Drug costs can vary by location, so you should spend your time shopping around. Here are some tips for finding your asthma medications on the cheap.

Try an online pharmacy

Online pharmacies can potentially save you a lot of money. They eliminate the middleman and ship the medication directly to your door, often in three-month supplies. Still, there is some risk involved, and you’ll want to be safe about it and go with a reputable online pharmacy such as Drugstore.com or Costco.com. Your local pharmacy also may offer discounts for using their online service.

First and foremost, make sure the pharmacy is located and licensed in the U.S.— Canadian or overseas pharmacies aren’t held to FDA standards. Also, avoid any online or mail-order pharmacy that doesn’t require a prescription, or else you’re vulnerable to fraudulent or counterfeit drugs. Lastly, make sure the pharmacy has a phone line you can call to talk to a real, licensed pharmacist.

Check to see if your tablets can be split

Oral asthma medications often come in tablet form, which means you can possibly save money by pill-splitting. A double dose of Singulair or albuterol (in tablets) may come at the same price as your regular dose, or at a slightly higher cost. If your doctor gives you the go-ahead, you could purchase the stronger dose and halve each pill to make a month’s supply go twice as far. Purchase a pill splitter at your local grocery or drug store, so you know you’re getting equal doses each day.

Ask your doctor or pharmacist for help

Most prescribing doctors occasionally meet with pharmaceutical representatives whose aim is to get them to prescribe a certain drug. Your doctor gets samples and information about the medication from these representatives, but sometimes they also receive supply coupons, pharmacy gift cards or other money-saving tools. It’s OK to ask for access to any of these when discussing a new medication.

Even if your doctor doesn’t have any of these on hand, he or she may know of other resources to help you pay for your medications. Sometimes pharmacists are also helpful in providing coupons, or telling you where to find them online.

Use a discount pharmacy

Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club aren’t fooling when they say they have the cheapest drug prices around, but Publix, Kmart, Target, Safeway and Kroger pharmacies often match those prices to the penny or even come up cheaper. This is true for asthma medications just like any others, so call around before choosing your pharmacy. For instance, when it comes to montelukast, the generic version of Singulair, those discounted pharmacies offer a month’s supply of 10-milligram tablets for as low as $12.05, whereas Wal-Mart’s and Sam’s Club’s bottom price is $15.94.

In order to save money, you’ll want to avoid drug stores all together. For that same supply of 10-milligram montelukast, CVS comes in at $51.25, Walgreens at $53.50 and Rite-Aid at $75.31—more than six times the price for the same medication. In a few cases a warehouse-membership pharmacy like Costco or HealthWarehouse is cheapest, but most often you’re better off heading to the same place you can buy your groceries.

Ask your doctor to prescribe a cheaper option

If you use a corticosteroid inhaler regularly to control your asthma, there may be a different brand or even a generic that works just as well. Both Pulmacort and Singulair come in generic versions, but all are versions of the same class of molecules. This means they all work similarly in the body, and aside from inactive ingredients they may not feel any different for you.

See if you can take your medication a different way

While most people use metered dose inhalers (or “puffers”) for their asthma, nebulizers (“breathing machines”) are larger, less-portable options that can deliver the same dose in a mist. Nebulizers are more user-friendly and may be better for children who have trouble coordinating their breathing, the elderly or people with severe asthma. A small device called a “spacer” can be attached to an MDI to help coordinate the puff of medicine so that using an inhaler is easier.

Research indicates that nebulizers and MDIs are equally effective in delivering the medicine that controls your asthma. However, preparations for nebulizers can cost two to four times as much per dose as MDIs and the nebulizer itself can cost up to $220, making inhalers a much more cost-effective option. If you or your child has a nebulizer, ask your doctor if switching to an inhaler with a spacer is an option. It may just save you money.

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