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The pandemic has prompted more Americans to shop online, and buying drugs is no exception. In addition to the mail-order business of major chains, such as CVS and Walgreens, and established online vendors, such as Amazon and Costco.com, there are now many newcomers to online pharmacy, including GeniusRx, Honeybee Health, Ro Pharmacy, ScriptCo Pharmacy, and Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Co.

But while in many cases they offer rock bottom prices, buying drugs online isn’t the only way to save. Here are some more.

1. Use GoodRx coupons at a walk-in pharmacy

GoodRx is a company that provides free coupons that give you discounts on drugs. Available on its website or through the GoodRx app, the coupons can save you 80% off the list price of generic drugs at select pharmacies. For more savings, consider joining the GoodRx Gold program, which gives you access to over 1,000 medications for less than $10 per prescription. An individual membership costs $10 per month; for $20 a month you can add five family members, friends or even pets. Bonus: Master Gold account holders also get telehealth medical visits for as little as $19.

2. Check out discount programs at Walgreens and Walmart

Enrolling in the Walgreens Prescription Savings Club program allows you to fill prescriptions for hundreds of generic medications for $7.50, $10, or $15 for a 30-day supply, or $15, $20, or $30 for a 90 day supply – no insurance needed. Membership costs $20 per year for an individual or $35 for a family. Walmart’s free prescription program offers dozens of medications for $4 for a one-month supply or $10 for a 90-day supply. Bonus: Supermarkets like Kroger, HEB and others also offer discounted generic drug programs. Check those in your area for details.

3. Look for generics offered by your insurer

If you have an Aetna health insurance plan, for example, you can use the Aetna Rx Discount Pharmacy Card (PDF) at participating pharmacies in the insurer’s network to get preferred rates.

Call the number on the back of your insurance card to find a pharmacy near you. Or if your drug coverage is through CVS/Caremark, you can get discounts on several dozen select generics if you fill the prescription at a CVS pharmacy or through CVS.com.

4. Look for co-pay coupons or patient assistance programs

Getting a discount off the spot price of a brand name drug is a little trickier than getting a generic, but it’s still possible.

Drug companies offer copayment reduction programs if you sign up, but only if you have insurance. For people whose incomes reach certain thresholds, a pharmaceutical company’s assistance program can provide drugs for free, even to some people without insurance.

You can find manufacturer rebate programs for brand name drugs on the GoodRx website or app.

Bonus: Check out NeedyMeds for free assistance finding and filing documents for many manufacturer programs.

5. Ask your local pharmacy for a discount

Unlike chain pharmacies, which have set spot prices, your community pharmacy may have more leeway when it comes to drug pricing, says Doug Hoey, PharmD, CEO of the National Community Pharmacists Association. And Brandy Letson, PharmD, owner of Cashiers Valley Pharmacy in Cashiers, NC, says your local independent pharmacy can sometimes match or even beat low prices at a chain or online pharmacy, but you have to ask.

Editor’s note: This article also appeared in the May 2022 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

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Joan J. Dean

The author Joan J. Dean