Personal Finance

6 ways to save on your prescription drugs

Turing bows to pricing pressure

Public backlash against Turing Pharmaceuticals for raising the price of the life-saving drug Daraprim, which treats malaria and toxoplasmosis, by more than 5,000 percent to $750 per pill made the drug company reverse course last week. And now lawmakers and presidential candidates are the pharmaceutical industry. Yet prices on many other prescription drugs are projected to rise sharply next year.

Prescription drug price inflation is expected to approach double-digits in 2016, more than 10 times the consumer price index for all goods and services, according to a health-cost survey by the Segal Group. The benefits consulting firm estimates that prescription drug price will rise 9.8 percent in 2016, up from a 7.5 percent increase this year.

If you're one of the millions of Americans who regularly take a prescription drug, you can make several moves to lessen the burden of increasing drug costs.

Cut your health costs during open enrollment

Review all the prescription drugs you're taking. About 44 percent of adult Americans say they regularly take at least one prescription drug, according to a survey by Consumer Reports. And a 2012 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than 1 in 10 Americans had used five or more prescription drugs in the previous 30 days. Ask your doctors and pharmacist if all the medications you are taking are necessary. Some drug combinations might be redundant. Fewer prescriptions can lower your drug bill and decrease the chance of harmful interactions and side effects.

Use your health plan's formulary. That's the official list of medicines your health plan pays for. Drugs on the list change every year. Ask your doctor and pharmacist to use drugs from the formulary when writing and filling new prescriptions. Consider whether the prescriptions you regularly use are covered if you are evaluating health plans for next year during open enrollment, said Karen Frost, senior vice president of health strategy and solutions with benefits consulting firm Aon Hewitt.

Look for generic alternatives or less expensive brand-name drugs for the medications you are taking. But keep in mind the cost savings from generics is slowing. An AARP study found that 280 generic drugs widely used by seniors only dropped 4 percent on average in 2013, which was the slowest rate of decline since 2006.

Consider mail-order pharmacies for prescription drugs you take regularly. Overall drug costs at mail-order pharmacies were 16 percent lower than retail pharmacies across all drugs, according to a 2013 analysis by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Plus, mail-order pharmacies are "super-convenient," Frost said.

Sign up for coupons and discount cards. Pharmacies, associations and drugmakers provide discounts and coupons that reduce your pharmacy bill. Smart phone apps, such as GoodRx, can help you comparison shop for the best price on prescriptions in your area.

Shop for prescription drugs at discount stores. Secret shoppers for Consumer Reports found that Costco usually offered the lowest retail prices on medications. Target and Wal-Mart sell hundreds of generic drugs for $4 per prescription. "The $4 generics can add up to big savings, especially for seniors," Frost said.