Keeping drug costs down in retirement

Managing drug costs

If you're fortunate enough to have a job with good health benefits, you may not think much of the cost of prescription medications you take. You may only have to make a co-payment that covers a fraction of the total cost.

When you are retired and on Medicare, you'll still have to pay a share of health-care expenses out of pocket — and those expenses will likely consume much of your Social Security benefits and retirement savings.

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Medicare may help cover some costs, including doctor's visits, hospital stays and some prescription drug expenses, but it doesn't cover everything. Health-care expenses for a couple at age 65 will range between $275,000 and $295,000 — and they'll spend anywhere from $13,000 to $15,000 out of pocket just for prescription medication, according to health-care software firm HealthView Services.

Here are four ways to keep those costs down:

  • Buy generic drugs. Learn the generic name of the drug you take. Generic drugs are generally cheaper than brand names. More important: Since all medicines have one generic name, knowing that name can help you avoid mistakes and possible overdoses if you're taking the same medicine under different brand names.
  • Shop online. Check the internet for online pharmacies that may offer you a better deal. Make sure the pharmacy is accredited by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy as a Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site and displays the VIPPS seal.

    Also, NABP says if a website has ".pharmacy" at the end of its web address, you can rest assured that the online pharmacy is operating legally. Find safe and legal online pharmacies at
  • Compare prices. Don't just pay what the first pharmacy tells you the price is. Look for coupons and discounts. Compare drug prices online at websites such as, and
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Your family's health history certainly can be a major factor in your own life expectancy and your health later in life. But just because your parent(s) had chronic health issues doesn't necessarily mean you will.
    Exercise and a healthy diet may prevent you from health problems that require expensive drug treatments.