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I spend tons of money on prescription drugs each month, but it's getting difficult to be able to afford what I need. Is there anywhere I can go to buy cheaper drugs?

Unfortunately, many Americans are in the same boat. A 2008 report by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health found that 41 percent of adults who take prescription medicine say it's at least somewhat of a problem to pay for the drugs they need, including 16 percent who say it's a serious problem.

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It's a terrible dilemma for those who lack health insurance, but it can be challenging even for those who do have some coverage. Some patients resort to skipping doses, cutting pills in half or simply not filling the prescriptions.

The first thing to do is talk to your doctors so they know the challenges you're facing. See if they can prescribe cheaper generic drugs that treat your condition. Major retailers, such as Target and Wal-Mart offer rock-bottom, flat-rate prices for generic drugs--as low as $4 for a 30-month supply or $10 for a three-month supply.

If your drug doesn't qualify for those ultra-low prices, then shop around among pharmacies. Call several to compare prices for your prescriptions. You might be surprised by how much prices vary.

Another option is to seek help from patient assistance programs through manufacturers of the drugs you take. Many pharmaceutical companies provide free or reduced-cost medicine to patients who can't afford their prescriptions, and some companies offer multiple programs. Your first step is to determine who makes your medications. Then go to the companies' websites to find information about their patient assistance programs and what you must do to qualify. You probably will need to get your doctor involved in the process.

To help patients sort through the options, a variety of nonprofit groups provide assistance with the application process and can help you identify programs that fit your needs. These groups include the Free Medicine Program, National Organization for Rare Disorders, NeedyMeds.com, Partnership for Prescription Assistance and RxAssist.org.

Finally, medical experts don't recommend relying on free samples from physicians to make ends meet. Why? Those samples are usually for newer, expensive drugs, and eventually the samples run out, leaving you stuck with a costly prescription when a less-expensive generic equivalent might fit the bill.

For more, see how to get free prescription medicine.

Last updated: Mar. 3, 2011
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