Helping Your Patients Save Money

The prices of prescription drugs have skyrocketed over the years, leaving many of your patients in a pickle wondering how they’ll afford their prescription medications. Especially those patients who need them the most.

KFF polling from July 2023 found that more than one in four adults taking prescription drugs report difficulty affording their medication, including 40% of those with household incomes of less than $40,000 per year. Additionally, 88% of Americans favored limiting how much drug companies can increase the price for prescription drugs each year to no more than the rate of inflation.

The number of older adults who say they can’t afford their prescription medications has grown, according to a study published in JAMA Network Open. Approximately one in five adults aged 65 and up skipped, delayed, took less medication than prescribed, or took someone else’s medication last year due to the cost.

Show your patients how to navigate the prices of their prescription drugs. By saving them money, they’re less likely to have to choose between their medications and other necessities. As a result, their medication adherence can increase when medications are affordable. In turn, this leads to better health outcomes and may also help reduce patients’ stress levels.

Don’t worry. You don’t have to lose money to help patients save money. In fact, by helping patients save money, you’re helping your pharmacy business. Here’s how:

  • Increasing customer loyalty
    A variety of factors influence purchasing decisions. However, price is still the most important factor for consumers. Helping your patients get the lowest price on their prescriptions will keep them coming back.
  • Building patients’ trust
    Your patients notice when you go out of your way or sacrifice profit for them. The personal attention you give them sets you apart from national chain and big-box stores. In fact, going out of your way to make their lives easier shows patients you prioritize their well-being.
  • Boosting prescription count
    When you make medications more affordable, the likelihood of patients picking up their prescriptions increases. Plus, you won’t have to waste time and effort to return the abandoned prescriptions to stock and avoid the headaches of inventory control.
  • Helping your patients save money on medication
    According to the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, during the 12-month period from July 2021 to July 2022, 1,216 products increased in price and exceeded the inflation rate of 8.5% for that time period. The average price increase for these drugs was 31.6%. In 2022, there were drugs that increased by more than $20,000 or 500%.

The good news is that in October 2022, the Inflation Reduction Act introduced a new requirement for manufacturers to pay rebates to Medicare for Part D drugs whose price increases exceeded inflation. This was designed to reduce the frequency and size of drug price increases.

As an independent pharmacist, you’re in a perfect position to save your patients money. You’re already in tune with their needs, and perfectly positioned to bridge the gap between healthcare consumers and the complicated world of pharmaceuticals. Here are some ways you can help your patients save:

Switching to generics

Your best bet for reducing patient spending on pricey medication is to swap a brand name for a generic. Let your patients know when generic options are available and be sure to keep an appropriate stock of them. If you run out of generic and only have a higher-priced, brand-name medication to offer, most patients will opt to fill their prescription somewhere else. That means they may not come back to your pharmacy with their next prescription.

Helping them find manufacturer discounts

Most patients don’t know that drug manufacturers provide discounts on certain drugs. This is why it’s important that you inform your patients about manufacturer discounts and rebates, especially for medications that don’t have a generic.

Visiting the manufacturer websites is also vital. That’s where you’ll find discounts and assistance forms. You can make the process easy for your patients simply by finding and applying the discount or printing the rebate for them. They’ll appreciate both your effort and the additional savings.

Directing them to assistance programs

Look into federal or state assistance programs that might help low-income or disabled people cover costs. For example, the Patient Access Network Foundation (PAN) helps insured people at specific income levels who can’t afford their prescriptions. Your patients can apply online for a PAN monetary grant.

Your patients can also investigate other resources, such as Rx Assist; Partnership for Prescription Assistance; Together Rx Access; and NeedyMeds. Run by nonprofits, all their services are free. You may need to assist some patients with filling out the paperwork. However, this will only highlight your excellent customer service.

Manufacturer assistance programs, like Shire Cares or Astra Zeneca’s AZ&Me, can also help patients who qualify fill their prescriptions at no out-of-pocket cost. However, these programs are typically restricted to certain drugs. Plus, eligibility is tied to income and household size. These programs can be either in place of or in addition to the promotional discount programs that are open to everyone.

Online discount programs also exist, such as Blink Health, Arrive Health, and Zipdrug, to name a few. These programs make it simpler for patients to secure discounts for a wide variety of generics.

Informing them of payment plans

Pretty much every adult knows what a payment plan is. They’re commonly used in health care when a patient struggles to pay. But not everyone knows this solution exists in pharmacy.

Some of your patients might assume prescription costs are all or nothing. That’s not good news for time-sensitive treatments needed on Monday when payday isn’t until Friday. That’s where a payment plan comes into play. A payment plan provides a way for patients to take their medication on time. It also gives your pharmacy a chance to make money that would otherwise be left on the table if you let your patient walk out without their prescription.

If patients are unable to meet their payments, there is a chance you could lose money. So, be sure the potential loss is an amount your pharmacy can withstand. When in doubt, talk with a financial professional and ask how much risk is appropriate for your pharmacy.

The one downfall of a payment plan is it poses a risk to your business. To avoid this happening, consider some of these important tips:

  • Get everything in writing.
  • Make it clear how much the patient will pay, how often, and how soon the full amount must be paid.
  • Set up automatic debits from your patient’s bank account to save them the trouble of making additional trips to the pharmacy and ensure payments are made on time.

Educating them

For many patients, your independent pharmacy is the most accessible link to the world of medical insurance. They don’t realize they can find a more affordable drug plan. So, offer to help them navigate health insurance plans, including Medicare Part D. Tools like iMedicare and the CMS Plan Finder can help you compare plans quickly.

Some patients with a Health Savings Account (HSA) may also be confused about how to use their account to save money. They may also have questions about which products are HSA eligible.

With your knowledge of HSAs, you’re able to help educate patients on how to maximize savings through the HSA benefits. So, be sure to have some educational brochures on hand to give to your patients who need help understanding how HSAs work.

Accepting cash payments

If paying out of pocket will cost less than using insurance, let patients know. This is a win for you and your patients since cash goes straight into your account and bypasses third-party reimbursements.

Performing medication reviews

A medication review provides an opportunity for you to eliminate unnecessary medications, combine medications, or lower dosage, all of which will save your patient money. What’s more, when a patient receives multiple medications from several different prescribers, the odds are greater that at least one of those medications isn’t appropriate. For older patients and those with multiple comorbid conditions, this can lead to polypharmacy.

Highlight how discontinuing an unnecessary medication can help your patient reduce their overall prescription drug costs. Obtain an accurate medication and medical history and identify all the medications your patient is taking. Link each prescribed medication to a disease state and speak with your patient’s prescriber to discontinue medications that you feel are inappropriate.

Encouraging 90-day prescriptions

Patients who suffer chronic conditions that need long-term use of a medication might be able to save money by filling a 90-day prescription instead of the standard 30-day. Patients who fill a 90-day prescription will only have one copay rather than three copays for the same amount of medication. Plus, they’ll only have to make one trip to the pharmacy every three months.

From the Magazine

This article was published in our quarterly print magazine, which covers relevant topics in greater depth featuring leading experts in the industry. Subscribe to receive the quarterly print issue in your mailbox. All registered independent pharmacies in the U.S. are eligible to receive a free subscription.

More articles from the December 2023 issue:

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