Note: In updating our blog post on prescription discount cards, we determined it would be more useful to our readers to split this material into several posts. Previously, we posted about prescription discount cards and manufacturer copay cards.
Here’s some good news for patients taking common maintenance medications: you could be getting your prescriptions for as low as $4 a month.
Starting in 2006, many major pharmacies began to offer select generic drugs at reduced prices. These discount programs usually resulted in lost revenue for the store, but brought in new, loyal customers. However, as generic drug prices have risen in recent years, many businesses have dropped their discount programs. Once major pharmacy retailers gave up on them, the programs were no longer seen as a way to remain competitive.
Patients still benefit from reduced prices on maintenance medications, though. For that reason, some pharmacies continue to offer remarkable deals on commonly prescribed generics. Let’s take a look.
How do generic drug discount programs work?
Just like prescription discount cards, generic drug discount programs (GDDPs) are not insurance and are used instead of insurance. If the pharmacy’s discounted drug price is less than your copay, then it’s a good deal. If it isn’t less than your copay, stick with your insurance. It’s also important to note that the discounted price comes out of pocket and will not contribute to your deductible.
These programs are not the same as pharmacy loyalty programs, such as CVS’ ExtraCare, which grant points to customers when they make eligible purchases. Points typically cannot be used for prescriptions. This ensures that the pharmacy does not violate the federal Anti-Kickback Statute.
What are the options?
There are a couple flavors of GDDPs.
- Patients sign up for a savings program via a phone call, in-person request, or online. The pharmacy may charge a yearly fee. Once enrolled in the program, patients will have access to discounts on eligible prescriptions paid out of pocket.
- Patients don’t have to sign up at all. The discounted price is available to any patient, regardless of insurance status, who is willing to pay out of pocket.
In either case, most GDDPs divide medications into a “tier” system, just like pharmacy benefit managers do. This means not all generic drugs on the list will be $4 for a 30-day supply. Some may cost more than $20 per 30 days. If you have insurance and are considering using a discount program, always compare the discounted price against your copay. You might pay even less through your insurance.
Current generic drug discount programs
Generic drug discount programs may have declined in popularity, but they’re still out there if you look. Even some health systems offer them. Aurora Health, for example, offers a savings club that includes some brand name drugs alongside many generics. CHI Health offers $5 30-day fills on many generic medications. It’s always worth asking your pharmacist whether your trusted store offers a discount program.
Below are some of the better-known generic drug discount programs, along with one that is brand-new. Note that some programs are unavailable in certain states.
Walmart $4 Prescriptions: There is no sign-up or yearly fee needed to access Walmart’s low-cost generics.
Rite Aid Rx Savings Program: A membership is required, but it’s free! The discounted prices appear to be a flat rate for all eligible generics.
Walgreens Prescription Savings Club: Available at Walgreens and Duane Reade pharmacies, this program reduces the cost of many generics. The $20-a-year individual membership grants not only lower generic drug prices, but also discounts on immunizations, Walgreens’ brand products, and more.
Kroger Rx Savings Club: Kroger’s program is a little different; it’s essentially a prescription discount card. Individual memberships are $36 a year and offer more than 100 common generics for $6 or less per fill (some are free).
Sam’s Club Plus: To access all of this program’s benefits, patients have to become a Plus member, which costs $100 a year. However, this does include a short list of free drugs as well as reduced prices on some brand-name medications.
Hy-Vee $4 Generics: No membership needed for this program.
Winn-Dixie Low Price Generics: Winn-Dixie sticks to the $4 price on almost all the medications on their list, with the exception of thyroid drugs and a few others.
Bi-Lo Low Price Generics: Very similar to Winn-Dixie’s program, as they currently belong to the same parent company. (Note: Bi-Lo has been sold as of June 2020.)
H-E-B $4 Generics: No membership needed for this program.
Publix Medication Savings: Eight common drugs are completely free, and others are $7.50 for a 90-day supply.
Marc's Discounted Generic Prescriptions: Select generics are available for $1.98 for a 30-day supply.
Ro Pharmacy: Online pharmacies are getting on the generic train. Ro Pharmacy is an online dispensing pharmacy that is part of the Ro family, which includes telehealth/pharmacy providers Roman, Rory, and Zero. While Ro doesn’t have a telehealth option, it does offer over 500 common generics for $5 a month. Patients suffering from diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, asthma, and depression should be able to find their medications. People with other illnesses may have to turn elsewhere.
What to keep in mind
We counsel you to review all your options before using discount cards, copay cards, or discount programs. If you can’t afford your prescriptions, start with the following:
- Review your current prescriptions with your doctor or pharmacist. There may be cheaper options available.
- Consider your copay and deductible. Does it make better financial sense to pay out of pocket for prescriptions, or work towards meeting your deductible?
- Compare any fees involved with discount programs with the average amount you’ll save.
- Be aware of restrictions. Patients with federal or state insurance may not be eligible.
- Ask your pharmacist for help.
To help you navigate costs and stay healthy, we’ll continue our conversation about cost-saving tools in the coming weeks. Check back for a post on patient assistance programs (PAPs).