If you’ve ever had severe back or neck pain, you’ve likely been prescribed a medication to help manage your condition. Prescription drugs are among the most common nonsurgical treatments for spine pain, but many people are experiencing an unwelcome surprise at the pharmacy. Prices are rising, and most people don’t know how to navigate the complex world of prescription drugs to maximize savings.
#1. Saving at the pharmacy begins at the doctor’s office. When you’re with your doctor is the perfect time to put some prescription money-saving strategies in motion. Some ideas to prompt the conversation include:
You should also ask your doctor to write down the specifics of the prescription—name, strength, application—as this information will help you understand what you’ll pay at the pharmacy.
#2. Know your prescription drug benefits. We’ve all been there: Your doctor prescribes a drug for your back pain and says it will be ready at your pharmacy today. You leave the office and realize you didn’t catch the name of the drug.
Knowing exactly what drug you’ll be picking up at the pharmacy is important because you’ll want to know where that medication lives on your prescription drug coverage formulary. Drug formularies are the drug lists insurers use to categorize medications. Formularies can be hard to navigate, but knowing where a medicine lands on your plan’s formulary will prevent surprises at the pharmacy.
Before you head to the pharmacy, look up your drug on your insurer’s website (most insurers post their formularies online) or call your insurance’s customer service to find out exactly how much you will pay at the pharmacy. If the cost is too high, ask your doctor if another medication on a lower formulary tier might work just as well.
#3. Explore mail order. Mail order programs are a big cost saver for maintenance medications. With mail order, you can buy a 90-day supply of most common prescriptions for a fixed low price. You can expect to see an average of 30 percent savings on brand-name drugs when using mail order, according to a 2016 report in Money Magazine. Ask your insurance company if it offers a mail order program and details on how to sign up.
#4. Find affordable prescriptions online. If you don’t have prescription drug coverage, online tools can help you save money at the pharmacy. GoodRx is one example—it helps people find the best prescription prices and discounts. You can also download the GoodRx app to seamlessly search for medication deals from your phone or iPad.
#5. Do some discount due diligence. If you need a costly prescription to manage your back or neck condition, checking the drug manufacturer’s website for discounts could result in significant savings. Manufacturers often offer free trials, rebates, and percentages off the retail price, so don’t forget to check their websites for valuable coupons.
#6. Adherence is key to long-term savings. This tip is perhaps the most impactful, both for your pocketbook and overall health. Adherence means following your doctor’s instructions for using the medication. Rising drug costs have put proper adherence at risk, as people might skip doses or stop taking a medication altogether to save money.
Taking a medication as directed saves you money in the long run because it ensures you’re properly treating your current condition, and it may prevent future medical problems. Always follow your doctor’s instructions by taking the proper dose and getting your refills on time. If managing your drug regimen is not feasible for you financially, talk to your doctor about alternatives.
Good to Know: The Real Story on Generics
Brand loyalty is a strong motivator for consumers. You might stick with a certain name brand of laundry detergent or breakfast cereal because you think it’s better than the store brand. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking brand-name back pain drugs are superior to their generic counterparts—because it’s simply not true.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) makes generic drug manufacturers satisfy a strict set of criteria when seeking approval for generics. Compared to their brand-name counterparts, generic drugs must:
Unless your doctor notes otherwise, your pharmacist will likely fill any brand-name prescription with an available generic. This will help you save money while still getting the quality medication you need to manage your back and neck pain.
Being Drug Smart in the Face of Skyrocketing Costs
If you have back and neck pain, your medications can make a significant difference in your daily life. But, for many, the stress of paying for their prescriptions is adding a financial burden that can actually worsen pain. As drug prices rise, it’s easy to feel like controlling costs is simply out of your control. But if you invest some time in the tips above, you’ll have a greater understanding of your medication options and likely save money in the process.