Your Healthcare Guide

5 Money-Saving Questions to Ask Your Doctor

3. Will I be able to afford this long-term?
Think long-term, especially if you will be taking multiple medications. "It's really important for patients to be proactive and ask their doctor if there are cheaper alternatives," says Derjung Mimi Tarn, MD, PhD, assistant professor of family medicine at the School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. It might not occur to your doctor to bring up your pocketbook. In a 2006 study, Dr. Tarn found that physicians prescribing new medications brought up cost and acquisition issues with patients in only 33% of cases.

4. Should I take the free samples?
One study at the University of Chicago Medical Center found that patients who had received samples had significantly higher prescription costs than patients who didn't. That's because samples will always be the newest and most expensive brand-name drugs, and after the free samples run out, you are more likely to continue buying that brand. You may be better off getting a prescription for a cheaper generic, if possible.

"Most studies show that it's not a good idea to take samples," says Dr. Tarn. "The drugs that are available as samples are the newer, more expensive medications and once you get started on it and it works you tend to stick with it. It's almost better to get started on generic medication then scramble later on to try to meet your copay for much more expensive medications."

5. Can I talk to my pharmacist to figure out the least expensive option?
If you already have a prescription, it's not too late to consult your pharmacist. "Talk to your pharmacist and we can go through the medication list," says Janet Engle, Pharm.D., head of the department of pharmacy practice at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy and past president of the American Pharmacists Association. "Are there other options you can recommend to your doctor?"
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