For savvy shoppers looking to save, coupons are a staple. In fact, one survey found 90% of consumers use coupons.
But when consumers search for coupons, most of them aren’t looking to save money on their medications, at least not according to my analysis of Google Trends.
In case you didn’t know, Google is tracking your searches. Top searches for coupons include shoppers looking to save at Bed Bath and Beyond, Joann Fabrics, DoorDash, Build-A-Bear, Little Caesars, Denny’s, Walmart, Amazon, Macys, Kohls—OK, you get the point. Coupon searches for pharmaceuticals aren’t even in the top 25!
You could be missing out on medication savings.
Nearly 1 in 4 Americans taking prescription drugs say it’s difficult to afford them, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
So why not use a coupon?
Maybe because it seems a bit scam-ish at first. Or maybe it’s because people don’t know that even if you have insurance you can save money by using a coupon or co-pay card from the drug manufacturer to cut down the cost.
Let me give you a couple examples.
Matthew Kennedy has type 1 diabetes. He needs insulin every day to live.
Even with insurance he told me it cost him $300-400 a month for his insulin and supplies.
A big part of that expense is for Novolog, a rapid-acting insulin usually taken 5-10 minutes before eating.
In 2001, the list price for Novolog was $39.75 a vial. It’s now $289.
Of course if you have insurance the price you ultimately pay is based on your benefits (and negotiations between insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers), but brand name drugs like Novolog are often in a higher tier, which can mean a higher copay. Some insurance plans also have high, out-of-pocket deductibles that must be met before coverage of insulin kicks in.
As the cost of his prescription insulin got more expensive, he turned to an older kind of insulin, sold over the counter at Walmart for $25, but he had a harder time managing his disease. [WGME: Diabetics turn to non-prescription Walmart insulin as drug prices continue to spike]
That’s when his pharmacist told him about a coupon program offered by Novo Nordisk, which makes Novolog insulin.
There are coupons for prescription drugs? Why didn’t anyone tell me about this before?
“I have a good pharmacist. He let me know of programs out there. Most of these companies, bigger companies, have coupons if you register online,” Kennedy said.
Using the Novo Nordisk “Instant Savings Card” he was able to bring the cost down to $25 – the same as what he was paying for the over-the-counter insulin.
During a Congressional hearing in April, Doug Langa, President of Novo Nordisk, said the company provided $200 million in assistance to patients through coupons and co-pay cards.
“Novo Nordisk offers coupons or co-pay assistance to help patients by decreasing what they pay at the pharmacy counter. We offer this assistance on a variety of our medicines, including NovoLog®, Tresiba®, Levemir®, and Fiasp®,” he said.
The fine print. There are some restrictions and eligibility requirements. For example, you need to have a commercial insurance plan and can’t be part of a federal or state healthcare program such as Medicaid or Medicare.
A viewer also recently told me his story of using a coupon to save money on a thyroid medication.
Tirosit is a brand name hormone medication used to treat underactive thyroid. It’s different from other forms of the generic levothyroxine because it comes in a capsule, instead of a tablet, and absorbs better for some patients. Unlike traditional levothyroxine tablets, the manufacturer says Tirosint is also free from excipients, such as sugars, dyes, alcohol, gluten, and, lactose, which can cause issues for people with food or ingredient sensitivities.
It’s also much more expensive.
Back to example #2. After thyroid-related lab work showed levels far from optimal and a larger dose of the generic wasn’t delivering the desired results, this patient’s doctor prescribed Tirosint. For someone who was accustomed to an $8 a month co-pay for the generic, the $70 out-of-pocket co-pay for the new drug was a large and unexpected spike.
He later learned the maker of Tirosint offers a coupon, and he paid $25 a month when he got the prescription refilled.
The manufacturer of the drug says 9 out of 10 patients with commercial insurance will pay as little as $25 for a month’s supply of Tirosint.
So give it a try. Google around and see if you can clip (or click) some coupons that could save you a few bucks the next time you need a refill. Then just take the coupon card and your prescription to your pharmacist.
Here’s to you, your money, and your health.
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