Co-Pay Cards, Drug Insurance and Canadian Pharmacies What is Actually the Cheapest: Comparing Pharmacy Pricing

Category: Drug Information


Posted on January 16, 2021

Vanessa is a health writer and blogging expert. Her specialities are medicine, health and wellness. She is proud to call Vancouver, BC her home where she enjoys the ocean and mountains with her dog Mr. ChowChow.

pharmacy pricing

According to the CDC, at least 60% of Americans have some sort of chronic health issue needing ongoing treatment.

If you're one of these unfortunate folk, you're probably all too aware of the high cost of prescription medications in the US. So what are you to do when you need medication every day to stay alive?

Fortunately, there are ways to save on the high cost of prescription medications. The trick is figuring out which are the cheapest ones.

In this article, we'll be taking a look at all the options and how they affect pharmacy pricing.

Comparing Pharmacy Pricing

If you're one of the 2 million people in the USA who doesn't have any type of health insurance, or if you don't have drug insurance, your first step toward savings is shopping around. 

A comparison of pharmacy prices in the USA reveals that the cost of prescription medications can vary. There could be a difference of hundreds of dollars depending on the pharmacy you use. 

Chain stores aren't always the best choice either. The same study showed that CVS and Rite Aid were among the most expensive places to buy chronic medication. 

Like any business, pharmacies have to cover their operational costs when they price their products. Since these vary widely from store to store, it makes sense that drugs will cost more depending on where you shop.

Some stores can offer discounts on these medications which can bring the prices within the affordable range, but again, these vary widely.

Is Health Insurance the Cheapest Option?

Even if you do have drug coverage, it's not always the cheaper option when buying prescription medication. If you're lucky enough to need one of the cheaper chronic medications, the premium for your drug cover could outstrip your savings.

Plan D Medicare options also have many exclusions when it comes to chronic medications, so you might save nothing at all. 

When determining which drugs to cover, health insurers consider the drug's efficacy, not its cost. So, they won't cover unproven medications unless the FDA findings specifically support how effective it is. 

The price you as a consumer pay also has nothing to do with the cost to produce the drug. Pharmacy benefits managers allocate each new drug to a category containing other similar drugs when determining how much you'll pay. 

All the drugs in this category cost around the same price, regardless of their manufacturing costs. Health insurers consider these categories when setting up their formulary lists.

Usually, they'll only pay for one type of drug for each specific condition, usually the cheapest alternative. 

Another drawback with health insurance is co-pays. Many health insurance options only pay a percentage of medication and treatment costs. The balance comes out of your pocket.

Fortunately, you can get your hands on co-pay cards that can help you with some of these out-of-pocket expenses. 

How Much Can You Save With Co-Pay Cards?

Also known as co-pay savings programs, co-pay assistance cards, or co-pay assistance these initiatives can help you afford the drugs you need.

Drug manufacturers provide these benefits to help patients afford the most costly medicines by reducing out of pocket costs. They do this so that you'll choose their drug above a similar product offered by their competition.

When you use one of these co-pay cards, the drug manufacturer covers some or all of your out-of-pocket expenses. If your insurer doesn't pay anything towards the drug, the manufacturer may cover all or some of the cost. 

You can get a co-pay card directly from drug manufacturers via their websites, from your pharmacist, or your healthcare provider. If you can't sign up online, you can call the manufacturer and ask them to issue you with a card.

As soon as you're enrolled, they'll send you a printed card or provide one for you to print yourself. When you buy your medications, you simply present the card and the pharmacist will deduct your savings from the price of the drugs.

Both pharmacies, patients, and drug manufacturers benefit from these cards. Yet, some argue that the cards discourage the use of generic medications and that this will affect the consumer negatively in the long run. 

Can Anyone Get a Co-Pay Card?

Not everyone's eligible for co-pay benefits. You can only apply for a card if you fall into the following categories:

  • You have private or commercial insurance
  • You don't have any government health insurance like Medicaid or Medicare

That's because anti-kickback laws state that manufacturers can't refund federal health insurers for the co-pay discount. 

Some states, like California, don't allow the use of co-pay cards if there are generic alternatives available. 

Most co-pay cards have terms and conditions too. There are often limits on how many times you can use a card and how much you can save. 

Many co-pay cards also have an expiry date, so check the fine print before you sign up for one of them to see if they'll really benefit you. 

If co-pay cards are out of the question for you, there's one more way to save on the cost of medication and health supplements.  

Are Canadian Online Pharmacies the Cheapest Option?

By now we're all aware that Canada has some of the cheapest drug prices worldwide, so it makes sense that drugs from Canada are cheaper.

While new legislation suggests that medications may become cheaper in the USA in due course, shopping online at a Canadian pharmacy is your best bet for now. 

When you order medication online from Canada, you could end up paying up to 88% less for your prescription. What's more, you'll also find that registered online pharmacies also offer discount coupons so you can save even more. 

Always consider shipping costs when ordering drugs online, you could end up paying more if the pharmacy charges high rates for delivery. 

It's important to vet any online pharmacy thoroughly before you buy drugs from them. Only do business with an accredited pharmacy that's verified by Pharmacy Checker

When you work with a legitimate provider, you're assured that all your medication comes from a licensed pharmacy and that your financial details and medical information are safe. 

Buying medication from an unlicensed and unscrupulous supplier can cause you serious harm.

How to Order from an Online Canadian Pharmacy

Placing your order with an online pharmacy is almost as easy as shopping online on any other website. Here's how it works:

  1. Search for your necessary medication on the pharmacy website
  2. Select the correct dosage and quantity and add it to your shopping cart
  3. New patients will need to create an account on the website
  4. Existing customers can simply log in
  5. Complete the checkout process
  6. Your order should arrive within a few days 

You'll need to upload a copy of your prescription during this process, so make sure you create your account under the same name as the one displayed on the paperwork. 

If you have any issues ordering online you can call the pharmacy during office hours to place your order over the phone and fax or email them the prescription. 

Some pharmacies offer an online chat facility to help you cope with any difficulties you encounter.  

You'll need to mail your original prescription to the pharmacy afterward.

For added convenience, most online pharmacies will call your doctor and ask them for a copy of your prescription if necessary. 

Believe it or not, even when you shop online with a Canadian pharmacy, you can still save even more on the cost of your medication.

Keep reading to find out how.

Extra Ways to Save on Chronic Medication Costs

Regardless of whether you're shopping online with a Canadian pharmacy, or buying your medications at your local pharmacy, you can still save in other ways.

Apart from co-pay cards, you can keep a lookout for discounts from regular pharmacies and drug manufacturers. Yet your biggest savings could stem from a heart-to-heart with your regular doctor.

Speak to Your Doctor

Total honesty is always the best policy when it comes to your medical care. Speak to your doctor about your affordability concerns.

Often doctors have a stash of free samples available. Medical representatives wanting to advertise their products, give these samples to doctors for free.  

If your doctor can supply you with some free samples, not only will you get relief for free, but you could save on buying a month's supply of a drug that either doesn't work for you or has side effects you can't bear. 

Your doctor always has your best interests at heart and they can also help you with the below savings tactics.

Use a Generic Alternative

Generic medications have the same active ingredient as brand name drugs that treat similar conditions. For example, the active ingredient in Januvia is Sitagliptin. 

So, whether you buy brand name Januvia or generic Sitagliptin, you'll get the same benefits. 

Generic drugs are cheaper because they piggyback on the expensive research done by major pharmaceutical manufacturers to produce their products at a lower cost. So, you get the same medication at a cheaper price, up to 80% cheaper than their branded equivalents. 

Like brand name drugs, generic medications also undergo the stringent FDA approvals process before they're released on the market. 

There's a good chance your doctor has already prescribed a generic drug for you since there's no reason for you to pay more for the same thing. If not, ask them why and see if they can change your prescription to the cheaper version. 

If there isn't a generic version available right now, ask them to let you know when there is one. 

Buy in Bulk

While comparing pharmacy prices, you may have noticed that when you buy a larger supply you pay only slightly more, or the same amount per item as you do for a smaller quantity.

For example, a 30-day supply often costs as much or the same per dose as a 60-day supply. 

Speak to your doctor about increasing your script to a two or three-month supply. You'll save money and you won't need to remember to stock up every month. 

Once again, talk to your doctor about changing your script to the cheaper version. 

Remember, there may be legal restrictions on prescribing large quantities of some classes of drugs. Ritalin is one of these. 

Split Your Pills

A $5 pill-splitter can save you a fortune on your necessary medication. If you compare prices on most medications, you'll notice that a higher dose of the same drug often costs almost as much as the smaller dosage.

With many drugs, you can order the higher dose and split the pill to get the same effect. Some of the drugs that you can't split include the following:

  • Time-release drugs
  • Capsules
  • Pills with an enteric coating

It's also not a good idea to split pills yourself if you're visually impaired or don't have a steady hand. In these cases, you can ask someone else to split your pills for you.

Again, speak to your doctor about the possibility of splitting your pills, and ask them to change your script if possible. 

The Best Way to Save Money on Prescription Drugs

Don't let prohibitive pharmacy pricing prevent you from getting the medication you need. Shopping online with a reputable Canadian pharmacy is totally legal and safe.

It's by far the cheapest way to buy all your necessary medication and you can use all the above tactics to save even more in the process.

Browse our product prices to see how you can save and order your medications today.  

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