People living with diabetes know that much of their budget goes towards managing the disease. Indeed, many patients are spending a significant amount of money on prescription medications. A study by the Health Care Cost Institute found that on average, they spent $5,705 (out of pocket) in 2016.
Fortunately, there are ways that people living with diabetes can manage costs for insulin and other medications. Your healthcare team can help you find solutions that allow you to continue taking your diabetes medications as prescribed, while also saving you money.
Patient assistance programs
Pharmaceutical companies offer Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs). These programs help individuals who lack insurance coverage or who can’t afford their medications. Eligibility requirements vary, but your physician or pharmacist can help explain these programs to you. In most instances, your physician will need to provide clinical information as part of the program application process.
Samples and coupons
Physicians and pharmacists often have coupons in their offices that can help you save on diabetes medications. If you don’t see any discounts, ask your healthcare provider if there are any available. The drug manufacturer may have coupons online if there aren’t any in the office.
Your healthcare provider may also have samples of medications and supplies. While samples of insulin may not be available, it’s likely that your provider may have free samples of other medications.
Also ask your pharmacist about in-store prices, store coupons and other possible savings.
Prescriptions: 90-day supply vs. 30-day supply
Prescription prices can vary depending on the supply. Sometimes a 90-day supply is more cost-effective than a 30-day supply. Your pharmacist and doctor can work together to determine if a 90-day supply can benefit you.
Generic drugs typically cost less than brand name drugs, but they are just as effective as brand name medications. Generic drugs can lead to significant savings for non-insulin treatments. Speak with your doctor about generic options for your prescription medications.
Changes to your insulin
A rapid-acting insulin or intermediate-acting insulin can be more affordable than a long-acting insulin. The cost savings may outweigh the inconvenience (but be sure to speak to and stay in contact with your healthcare team about changes that may be needed to your regimen if you are changing to a new type of insulin).
In addition, older versions of insulin are often cheaper. Talk with your doctor to see if switching is appropriate for you. Be aware that changing to an older type of insulin means changing how you manage your diabetes. It’s important to have a complete understanding of what this will entail before you switch your insulin.
Other tips to manage diabetes costs
Your physician, pharmacist and other healthcare providers are there to support you and help manage your condition. However, it’s equally important to be your own advocate. Here are some additional tips that can help you save.
Compare prices online.
Many patients don’t know that prescription drug prices can vary from pharmacy to pharmacy. In fact, prices for the exact same drug can vary by as much as 300%. There are many free online drug lookup tools that allow patients to compare prices. A little research can lead to significant savings.
Get a prescription discount card.
A prescription discount card is a free card that allows consumers to save on their prescription medications. There are no eligibility requirements, and these cards can be used regardless of insurance coverage. However, they cannot be used in addition to insurance. Don’t assume insurance is the cheapest price. Sometimes the prescription discount card may be better than the insurance price.
Check your preferred brand.
To reduce out-of-pocket costs, make sure your prescribed medications are on your insurance company’s formulary. A formulary lists the preferred drug brands. Your doctor may check to see which are preferred, but it’s always worth asking them and verifying with your insurance provider.
Be open with your healthcare team.
Finances are always a difficult topic, but it’s important to be open with your physician, pharmacist and diabetes educator. Changes to your medication regimen can quickly become a financial burden, but budget challenges shouldn’t be the reason you stop taking medications.
Be open if you’re unsure how your medications fit into your budget. Your healthcare team can talk through your options with you and help you save on your diabetes medications.
About the author: Jeremy Lee, PharmD, BCPS, is the Director of Drug Information for America’s Pharmacy. America’s Pharmacy helps consumers save up to 80% on prescription medications in pharmacies across the United States. Jeremy graduated from UCLA with a degree in biology and went on to receive his PharmD from the University of California, San Francisco. He has over 20 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry.