The cost of brand name prescription medications in the United States is outrageously high. To say the root of the problem and potential solutions is complex is an understatement! And regardless of the cost of drugs, diabetes is an expensive disease. From frequent office visits to medications to supplies to labs and monitoring, the dollars add up quickly. In 2013, the ADA issued a statement estimating the cost of living with diabetes.
“People with diagnosed diabetes incur average medical expenditures of about $13,700 per year, of which about $7,900 is attributed to diabetes. People with diagnosed diabetes, on average, have medical expenditures approximately 2.3 times higher than what expenditures would be in the absence of diabetes.”
Even with “good” health insurance, looking for ways to save money on supplies and medications makes sense. Here are some ways to stretch the money used on medicines.
- Use generic drugs whenever possible. This one seems obvious but still needs to be stated. Generics are available when a brand-name drug goes off patent and competitors are allowed to copy the original drug. The FDA ensures that generics are therapeutically equivalent to the brand name version. We fully support generic drugs for diabetes, even if you are willing to pay the higher co-pay for a brand name drug. You are not getting a superior product by paying more.
- Use manufacturer coupons for brand-name drugs. Some diabetes medications have not been out for very long and are not yet available in the generic form. Manufacturer coupons are available from the drug company’s website and can be used with your insurance to lower your monthly copay. These could bring a $50 monthly co-pay down to $30 or lower. You usually have to register on the drug company website with an email address, and then download the coupon to show at the pharmacy. Sometimes the pharmacy technician will help with this step, but you will need to ask. The downside of manufacturer’s coupons is that they are not used with Medicare or government-sponsored health plans. They also have to be renewed at least annually.
- Use cost-saving cards for generic drugs. The GoodRx card is offered to people regardless of insurance status. This card offers discounts on generic drugs and offers an online registration or discount cards available at retail pharmacies. Because cash prices vary from one pharmacy to another, the GoodRx website or app offers the ability to obtain pricing from pharmacies by zip code, to get an accurate picture of the discount one can get with the GoodRx card. As much as possible, we generally recommend staying with the same pharmacy for all of your medication needs but also acknowledge that there may be exceptions where you need to price shop.
- Check out drug company patient assistance programs to see if you qualify for free or discounted medicines. These most commonly give assistance to people with zero or very little insurance coverage. Each pharmaceutical company has its own set of income guidelines to meet in order to receive the free meds. You’ll usually have to provide proof of need through either a paycheck stub or some other financial documentation. The initial application process can be time-consuming, but once you’re approved, most companies will keep you in the program for a year at a time. You can find out about these programs on each drug company’s website, or through an online resource like needymeds.org or rxassist.org. These sites compile each of the individual pharmaceutical company requirements in one place to make finding the information a bit smoother.
- The best way to save money on diabetes drugs is to never have them prescribed in the first place. To be clear, we would never advocate not taking something your medical provider has recommended. But diabetes is a progressive disease that tends to snowball in terms of more and more medications being added to achieve the A1C goal. We also don’t mean to imply that you should skip the statin or blood-pressure lowering drugs that are also beneficial for preventing complications. But the reality is, the better you do at controlling your sugars through diet and lifestyle choices, the more likely you are to not need additional medicines to keep things in check – a guaranteed cost saver!
With drug prices seeming to be on the rise year-after-year, we need to share our best strategies for keeping costs as low as possible. If you’ve had success with different money-saving methods for anything related to diabetes, drop us a comment or email so that we can share it with our subscribers!
Want some quick and easy diabetes-friendly snacks?
With this list, you won't have to wonder what to eat in between meals!
Download it to your phone or tablet and keep it handy, or print it off and keep it by your fridge.