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Finding less expensive prescription medicines can be difficult for many of us. Even if we have health insurance, the prices and co-pays may still be too high. This can lead us to look for other options and sometimes these can be risky. Below are some reliable ways to find affordable medicine.

Watch the Consumer Reports video - Prescription Drugs: 5 ways to save

As a health care consumer, you have the right to receive information that is accurate and presented in a way that you can understand. You also have the right to take part in decisions about your health care with your doctor or other health care provider. Practice your rights as a health care consumer by making the most of your visit.

  1. Ask your pharmacist and doctor if there are cheaper alternatives

    female doctor

    • Is there a generic alternative to the medicines that you need?
    • A generic drug has the same active ingredient as the brand name drug, and they often cost less.
    • Ask your doctor if there are any other drugs that might be cheaper but just as effective.

  2. Programs for the uninsured

    • There are various programs available for low income and undocumented individuals through the LA County Department of Health Services.
    • Call 2-1-1 or visit the 211 webpage for help finding health care and insurance. 2-1-1 is free and the operators speak 9 languages.
    • If you are undocumented and donít think you can get or afford health care, find out about My Health LA , a free insurance program for individuals and families who cannot get health insurance. Health care services are provided by more than 200 Community Partner clinics in My Health LA. Go here to find a clinic near you.

      211 hotline logo

  3. Mail order pharmacy


    • If you have insurance, and your health care provider has given you medicine for a long period of time, your insurance company may be able to mail you a 3-month supply.
    • This can save time and reduce the number of co-pays but the costs may be higher than at pharmacies. Ask about prices, learn more here.
  4. Prescriptions and insurance plans

    • If you are shopping for health insurance, look for a plan that covers medicines.
    • If you have Medicare, Part D can pay for medicines.
    • If there isnít a generic medicine available through your insurance, ask for a medicine that is on your insurerís formulary. A formulary is a list of medicines that your insurance company will help you pay for.
    • To make filling your prescription easier, bring a copy of your insurance planís formulary to your doctorís appointment.
    • To get a copy of your insurance planís formulary, call the customer service number listed on your insurance card or find your planís formulary on their website.

  5. Patient-assistance programs

    • Patient-assistance programs are sponsored by companies that make prescription medicine.
    • You may be able to get medicine for free or at a lower cost. See Resources below for a list of programs that may be able to help.

  6. Shop around
    shopping cart

    • Some pharmacies, including those located in large retail stores, sell generic medicines at discounted prices.
    • Many pharmacies offer drug discount cards but you still may get a better deal by shopping around.
    • It is good practice to get all your medicines from one pharmacy so that the pharmacist can check for drugs that should not be taken together.
    • Many pharmacies, including smaller ones, may be willing to match prices.

  7. Use online pharmacies with caution and avoid counterfeit drugs

    • The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy recommends pharmacies whose website address ends in ď.pharmacyĒ. To find a .pharmacy website, click here.
    • Signs of a trustworthy pharmacy website:

      • It's located in the United States.
      • It's licensed by the state board of pharmacy, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.
      • It has a licensed pharmacist available to answer your questions.
      • It requires a prescription from your doctor.
      • It provides contact information and allows you to talk to a person if you have problems or questions.

  8. Donít split pills without talking to a physician or pharmacist

    • Some people cut pills in half to save money but not all pills can be safely split. Before considering splitting, talk to your doctor and pharmacist. See this brochure for more information.

  9. Donít buy prescription medicines from anyone but a licensed pharmacist

    • Counterfeit (fake) drugs are widely available. You can buy packages of what looks like prescription medicines from websites, local grocery stores, botanicas, swap meets, and street vendors.
    • Sometimes these fake products will have no effect and sometimes they can make you sick.
    • There have been recent reports of counterfeit street drugs that contain a powerful and deadly opioid drug.
    • Don't buy prescription medicine or medical devices from online sellers such as EBay and Craigslist. They may be out of date, tampered with or stored incorrectly.
    • Only buy prescription medicines from a licensed pharmacist.

Watch this Consumer Reports Video on Saving Money with Best Buy Drugs


Patient-Assistance Programs

To Find a Reliable Pharmacy

Health Information and Medicines

  • HealthFinder has information on using medicine safely, frequently asked questions (FAQs) on antibiotics, quizzes, drug interactions and other helpful tools and resources.
  • Generic drug information.

To Report Counterfeit Medicines in Los Angeles

Programs for the Uninsured

Mail Order Pharmacy

  • If you have insurance, and your health care provider has given you medicine for a long period of time, many insurance companies can mail them to you.

Splitting Pills Brochure

  • Before considering splitting, talk to your doctor and pharmacist. See this brochure for more information.

Drug / Sharp Disposal

  • To get information on how to dispose of unwanted drugs and sharps, click here.

Public Health has made reasonable efforts to provide accurate translation. However, no computerized translation is perfect and is not intended to replace traditional translation methods. If questions arise concerning the accuracy of the information, please refer to the English edition of the website, which is the official version.
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