Question:   I am taking a new medication and the cost is high. Do you have any tips for lowering the prescription costs?

Prescription drug costs can sometimes be so high it makes it difficult to afford.

We struggle because we know we need to do the best thing for our own health while still being able to afford our cost of living. While there isn’t always an easy answer, there are some tips that may be able to help reduce your cost.

One of the first things to do is examine your prescription drug plan. If you are on Medicare, this is your Medicare Part D Plan. If you do not have a plan for prescriptions, you may wish to contact HICAP – the Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program – at 805-477-7310. Their qualified counselors can help you understand the insurance options that are right for you.

You want to check your drug plan’s formulary. This is the list of covered medications. They may have “tiered” list which means some drugs are covered on the best/first tier (meaning lowest cost and generic drugs) and they go up to the fourth tier, which is the most expensive tier.

The simplest way to reduce costs is to ask your doctor if a generic version of the drug is available and would be appropriate for you. Changing to a generic version, if covered on your drug formulary, can reduce your costs significantly.

There may also be a therapeutic alternative available. Your doctor is treating the health condition you have. Keep in mind that your doctor is probably not considering what this will cost you. You can ask if there is a different medication that could treat the same condition and that is covered by your prescription drug plan. Often your doctor would not have thought of this unless you ask and there may be an alternate option available to you.

If none of these options work for you, you can contact the drug company and see if they offer manufacturer coupons. There are also pharmaceutical assistance programs. You can look up your drug on the Medicare website to see if an assistance program exists to help you. Go to: and look up the medication.

If you have a low income you may qualify for a program through Medicare and Social Security called Extra Help. HICAP can help you understand if you qualify for this.

There are charitable programs that can also help to cover your prescription costs when nothing else will help. One is called The National Patient Advocate Foundation and you can learn more at or call them at (202) 465-5013.

As you are working out how to reduce your costs you can also ask your pharmacist to fill only a small amount of the medication, so you pay less then a full month. This will provide you time to figure out a longer-term plan.

It can feel really overwhelming when you are presented with high costs for a medication you need. Know there are options available.  Take these options one at a time and I hope one of them gets you the results you need.

Martha Shapiro can reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at


Tuesday, March 25th, 4 pm – 5:30 pm: Spirituality and End of Life Seminar presented at Senior Concerns, 401 Hodencamp Rd. Thousand Oaks. Call 805-497-0189 to register and more information.

Thursday, March 19, 10 am: Prevention of Falls Seminar at the Camarillo Senior Center at 1605 E. Burnley Street, Camarillo. Come and learn how you can prevent a fall. Become aware of fall hazards in your home and outside. Learn how to make a few changes in your home to prevent slips, falls and, broken bones. Free to the public. Call (805) 482-4881 in advance to register.

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