The amount of money that Americans spend on prescription drugs is more than five times higher today than it was in 1990, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study.
As many struggle to meet the steep price of medications, particularly in a tough economy, the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants offers these tips to help you more easily afford this expense.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that generic drugs save consumers from $8 billion to $10 billion a year at retail pharmacies. As a rule, generic drugs have the same active ingredients as their name-brand equivalents, but they can cost significantly less.
In other words, you can get the same benefit for less money. Always ask your doctor or pharmacist if there is a generic alternative for your medication, and whether they would recommend giving that alternative a try.
Be a good shopper: Where you buy medications can also have a big affect on cost. Call more than one pharmacy in your area to find out how much they charge for your prescribed medications. One source may be the cheapest for all your needs, or you may have to shop around to get the best deal on each prescription.
Purchasing large quantities is another possible cost-cutting move. Some pharmacies will give you a discount if you buy more than one month's worth of medication at a time. If you continually take a medicine for a chronic condition, be sure to ask about buying in bulk.
Too much money? Get assistance! If the medicines you need are just too costly for your budget, there's no reason to go without them. Many pharmaceutical companies run assistance programs to help those who can't afford their medications.
You can find out more on these programs online at: www. rxassist.org. The site features a searchable database of assistance programs that make specific medicines available free or at a reduced cost to those who qualify.
The site also offers information on Medicare Part D, state drug-assistance programs and other related topics.
If you are eligible for Medicare, then you qualify for its prescription drug coverage, no matter what your income, health status or prescription expenses. In general, Medicare prescription drug coverage makes it possible to pay less for your prescriptions. You can find out more about these programs by going to: www.medicare.gov  and clicking on "Prescription Drug Plan."
Whatever you do, take caution when buying. Some people buy prescriptions online or from overseas vendors to lower expenses. These may be legitimate options, but use a great deal of caution if considering them. Be concerned about potential problems with the medications you receive from an unknown source, as well as the safety of any credit card or other information you reveal.
The Food and Drug Administration offers tips for consumers, including a list of medications you should not purchase online. Find it by going to: www.fda.gov.