Are you facing big expenses for the medications you need to stay healthy? It's time to get creative and find ways to lower the cost of what you pay for prescriptions!

Print out a $4 list and take it with you

Generic drugs now account for well over 80% of all prescriptions. Just 10 years ago, less than half of drugs sold were generics.

Much of the growth is because employers make generics extra-affordable through mail-order programs (pharmacy benefits managers). Then you also have the grocery stores and big box retailers who do $4 generics. Most offer a 30-day supply of select generic drugs for $4 or a 90-day supply for $10. Some regional grocers even do free antibiotics! The next time you go to the doctor, print out one of these lists and see if there is a drug that would work for your condition. It can't hurt to ask!

One caveat: Drugs have different grades to gauge what's called their "bioavailability" -- how fast they get into your blood -- according to The Wall Street Journal. Pharmacists should routinely know about these ratings.

Generic drugs with an A rating means they are the exact equivalent of brand-name drugs. Yet a generic with a B rating indicates the drug is absorbed either faster or slower into the bloodstream vs. the original brand-name script. So the Wall Street Journal recommends that upon first filling a generic prescription, you ask the pharmacist about the rating. An A-rated generic equivalent is fine. But if it's a B-rated equivalent, have the pharmacist check with your doctor to make sure the substitution is OK. Often it will be. But better safe than sorry!

Try crossing the border for cheaper prices

For years, people who lived along the Canadian border have looked to our neighbor to the north for prescription savings. Canada has been a viable alternative for residents from Washington State to Maine. They simply go across the border and fill their scripts for a fraction of the cost for an identical medication.

If you don't live in a border state, there are legitimate Canadian pharmacies online where you can fill a script. From time to time, our federal government will seize a shipment as a show of force. But it is a rare thing and the pharmacy will usually replace it for you at their cost.

People who live in the Southwest have been known to cross the border into Mexico for cheaper prescription prices. But I want to be clear that I have no direct knowledge or info to say if this as safe a path as the Canadian route.

Read more: How to get a gym membership really cheap

Look at warehouse clubs even as a non-member

The beauty of Costco is you don't need to be a member to use their pharmacy. Simply show up and explain you want a prescription filled. Many Costcos have a separate entrance for their pharmacies to accommodate walk-in non-members.

A recent report from The Florida Sun Sentinel finds the price of a prescription can vary by as much as $170 for a 30-day supply, but the clear winner was Costco. A reporter named Doreen Christensen called around to price a Lexapro prescription at a variety of retailers. Here's what she found: "Costco $6.99; CVS $114.99; Publix $118; Sam’s Club $83; Target  $147.99; Walgreens $116.99; Walmart  $115.88 and Winn-Dixie $179.99."

Ask for a "biosimilar"

There was a recent Wall Street Journal article about a move in the U.S. to lower drug prices through something called "biosimilars." Simply put, that's a drug that's more affordable than the dominant player in the market and it's chemically exact in its structure. These things will be a very important part of the future of medicine, even though traditionalist are nervous or opposed to biosimilars.

If you are a doctor, a lot of the meds you're writing now are things that patients won't be able to afford. And they may die for lack of medication. So why not write a script for a biosimilar that costs 1/20 to develop and could be a completely life-saving event?

As a patient, the next time you're with a doctor, if there is a medicine you are prescribed that you can not afford, ask for a biosimilar!

Read more: Free app helps shop the lowest prescription prices

Want more money-saving advice? See our Health section.

 

Image of Clark Howard About the author: Clark Howard

Clark Howard is a consumer expert whose goal is to help you keep more of the money you make. His national radio show and website show you ways to put more money in your pocket, with advice you can trust. View More Articles

Show Comments 0