Pharmacy Discount Cards Can Save You 85% on Common Prescription Drugs

A person picking up prescription medication.
Pharmacy discount cards can help you save money on commonly prescribed medications. SDI Productions/Getty Images
  • A new study has found that pharmacy discount cards can often save people money.
  • These findings were based on 20 common generic drugs and two pharmacy discount card programs.
  • Discount card programs work by negotiating lower prices with pharmacies and drug companies.
  • Experts say this can lead to up to 85% savings off of regular drug prices.
  • Accessing the programs can be as simple as visiting the company’s website and downloading the card.

According to a newly published report in the Annals of Internal Medicine, out-of-pocket (OOP) payments through insurance are often greater than what people might pay when using a pharmacy discount card program.

The study’s findings applied to two discount drug programs: Amazon Prime and GoodRx Gold.

The team looked at 20 commonly prescribed generic medications, including several popular types of drugs such as antidepressants, high blood pressure medications, statins, and others.

Pharmacy discount cards helped save patients money on generics

To arrive at their conclusions, the scientists used data from the 2020 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS). MEPS is a large, nationally representative survey of patients, medical providers, and employers from around the U.S. It includes data on the cost and usage of health care and health insurance.

OOP payments in the MEPS were matched to prices through Amazon Prime and GoodRx Gold.

The drugs studied included:

Blood pressure medications

Antidepressants

Cholesterol-lowering medications

Stomach-acid-lowering medications

Asthma and allergy medications

Thyroid hormone

  • L-thyroxine

Diabetes medication

Any prescriptions where OOP payments were greater than the discount card pricing were noted in order to measure the proportion of excess OOP payments as well as their extent.

They also examined these measures in light of insurance type as well as whether the patients were likely to be in the deductible phase.

The researchers found that people’s OOP payments surpassed Amazon’s prices for 20% of the prescriptions they examined, while they exceeded GoodRx prices for 43% of the prescriptions.

Additionally, people’s OOP payments were greater than Amazon’s prices 40% of the time when the prescriptions were assumed to be in the deductible phase, while OOP payments for GoodRx were greater 79% of the time under this condition.

This suggests, said the authors, that when insurers cover part or all of the cost, there is a low rate of excess OOP payments. So, while discount cards can be helpful in reducing drug costs, this may not always be the case.

The authors noted that these savings particularly apply to those who either do not have insurance or are not adequately insured. Additionally, people who are enrolled in high-deductible healthcare plans might benefit.

Altogether, it was estimated that the OOP cost savings with these two pharmacy discount card programs would total about $969 million and $1.83 billion, respectively, with the majority of the savings coming from 90-day prescriptions.

How prescription discount cards reduce out-of-pocket costs

According to Pauline K. Gray, a certified pharmacy technician with PharmacyTechnicianBlog.com, pharmacy discount card programs offer discounts on prescription drugs at participating pharmacies, making healthcare more affordable for consumers.

“Pharmacy discount card programs work by negotiating discounted prices with pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies,” she said. “When a cardholder presents their discount card at a participating pharmacy, they receive a reduced price on their prescription medications. The pharmacy then bills the program sponsor for the discount provided.”

Gray explained that the savings provided by pharmacy discount card programs can vary, depending on the drug, the pharmacy, and the program. However, the average savings can amount to anywhere from 10% to 85% of prescription drug costs.

She additionally noted that generics can provide more substantial savings than brand-name drugs.

Are prescription discount programs worth it?

Dr. Saya Nagori, an ophthalmologist and CEO of EyeFacts, said that she is “ecstatic” when her patients are able to save money with these programs, stating that they allow people to pursue healthcare “with little hassle and major benefits with or without health insurance.”

She cautions, however, that some medications may not be covered. Additionally, discount coverage may be based on certain specifications, such as the dosage or amount prescribed.

“Nonetheless, I tell my patients it is absolutely worth asking at the counter if there are any cost savings because you never know when these discount programs will benefit you, especially when they offset the overall cost of a person’s healthcare.”

How to access prescription discount card savings

“Accessing pharmacy discount card programs is usually straightforward,” said Gray. “Many programs offer cards that are freely available to the public,” she noted, adding that they can be obtained online from program websites, through healthcare providers, or even at the pharmacies themselves. And, once you have the card, you can begin to use it immediately.

Gray added, “It’s essential for individuals to compare different programs to find the one that offers the best discounts for their specific medications and local pharmacies.”

There are several programs to choose from, however.

“Organizations that offer pharmacy discount programs include GoodRx, Optum Perks, ScriptSave, WellRx, and Blink Health,” said Nagori.

Gray added SingleCare, Needymeds, FamilyWize, and RxSaver to the list.

“Simply mention these company names in conjunction with your purchase and the pharmacist will check to see if there is indeed a discount to apply,” advised Nagori.

The bottom line

Several pharmacy discount programs exist and a new study shows that, in many cases, these programs can save people money when compared to their out-of-pocket costs through their insurance provider.

They are especially likely to save you money if you are underinsured or have a high deductible that you need to meet.

Experts say these programs can save people anywhere from 10% to 85% off the cost of their prescription medications.

Learning whether these programs can save you money is easy: Just ask your pharmacist. If your pharmacy participates in a program that can save you money, you can often download the card and begin using it right away.

Disclosure: Healthline Media and Optum Perks are both part of RVO Health.

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