Retire Well

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.

Adrianna Williams | Getty Images

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
Save money during Medicare open enrollment
  • 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.