Views & Voices

Seven Ways to Save Money on Meds


With all the doctor appointments and wellness activities we engage in, living with HIV/AIDS can be a full-time job. And the truth is, it doesn’t pay very well. We’ve all been feeling the pinch of tough economic times. So I hope you’ll find some savings in this new video blog, “7 Ways to Save Money on Meds.”

Jason King, a pharmacy specialist and patient advocate at AIDS Healthcare Foundation in Ft Lauderdale, was kind enough to give me a tour of their “Out of the Closet” thrift store and then sit down to discuss ways to save money that your pharmacist might not be telling you.

Most of these tips, by the way, can also apply to medications which are not HIV specific. And we have even included a tip just for our HIV-negative friends. I’m an equal opportunity money saver!

copay 2I’m amazed at how many people don’t know about co-pay assistance cards, a program in which the pharmaceutical picks up your co-pay costs. It’s a simple program to use without any income restrictions, and you can save up to $400 per year per medication! Fabulous. Your pharmacy or physician should have cards for you, or Google your medication along with “co-pay assistance” and you should find cards or information to print out.

Specialty pharmacies are a smart move these days. They focus on a particular disease, like HIV, but provide a full spectrum of medications like other pharmacies. The difference is usually service: their technicians are trained in HIV and know more about interactions, for instance, and they are more likely to point out savings opportunities like co-pay cards and patient assistance programs.

When I recently chose a new pharmacy, I went to a specialty pharmacy and just asked them, what can you do for me that Walgreens doesn’t? A lot, as it turns out. They offered free delivery and free shipping anywhere in the continental U.S., and they said they would provide free supplements with a prescription from my doctor! I made the switch, and along with my HIV meds, they provide my vitamins and fish oil at no charge. It pays to ask about perks.

Pharma symbolAIDS Healthcare Foundation pharmacy isn’t the only HIV specialty pharmacy in town. Others include BioScrip and Commcare, and they will all ship to you if you don’t have one in your area.

I was intrigued by the idea of buying generic meds from out of the country, but kept getting the icks. What if they make these meds in some ratty factory somewhere with no quality control? I mean, ick.

A little research put my mind at ease. The helpful folks at reminded me that people have been purchasing medications from Canada for decades because of the low cost. And India, which produces most of the generic HIV meds available, is the 2nd largest pharmaceutical industry in the world, with FDA-approved facilities.

And the prices. Wow. No wonder people who are without insurance (or in the doughnut hole) are purchasing their meds this way.

The laws are vague about the legality of this, but at any rate are not enforced. Generally speaking, it appears that people can purchase up to a 90-day supply of a medication from other countries as long as it is for personal use. If you’re shopping around and want to be sure the manufacturer is legit, visit to do your research.

Compounding pharmacies, like, are able to create special versions of generic medications in whatever strength or format (pill, capsule, liquid) that your physician requests. And their product is a lot less expensive than you are paying for the medication in its regular form! Since they only deal with generics, this is a tip for medications like testosterone gels or Lipitor or Flomax.

Finally, there are patient assistance programs offered by the pharmaceuticals that you might qualify for. There are doughnut hole programs for people with insurance that cover your meds when you fall into that financial abyss, and other programs for people with no insurance at all. The best resource online to navigate your way through these programs is

Between the co-pay cards and the supplements provided by my specialty pharmacy, I’ll be saving hundreds of dollars on my medications this year. I hope you’ll find similar savings.

Now, if we could create universal healthcare in the great United States, we would not be scrambling to pay for medications, and people from other countries would stop snickering and shaking their heads at the necessity of this blog posting.

Feel free to share/post/like this posting, in case it might save your friends some money! In the meantime, please be well.


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