Prescription Madness: Filling Prescriptions for Less

Things to consider before getting that prescription filled:

  • There’s a reason first-line medications are first line. These tried-and-true treatments work, and they went generic long ago. Discount stores like Target, Walmart and Costco include medications like amoxicillin and polymixin B/trimethoprim eye drops in their list of lower cost medications—currently a 30 day supply can cost as little as $4.
  • Ask about self-pay. Filling a prescription through your insurance commits you to the rate they have contracted with the pharmacy. Sometimes the cost of a prescription is less if you don’t pay with your insurance. This will not work with newer, brand name drugs that are still protected by a patent.
  • Shop around. Chains don’t always have the lowest price; check you local independent pharmacy.
  • Don’t be diverted. If one pharmacy says they don’t have the generic for the medication prescribed, ask the pharmacist to transfer the prescription to another store or contact your doctor. Rarely, a medication may be out of stock if a community is experiencing a wave of a particular malady, but if this seems to be a frequent refrain with your chain, consider another pharmacy.
  • Buy in bulk. Antihistamines like Claritin and Zyrtec that were once prescription, are now over-the-counter as the generics loratadine and cetirizine. Packages at the store can be small, and you may be able to find larger bottles for less online. Always check expiration dates on over-the-counter medications; they should last at least a year or look for a different package.

About Lisa M. Asta, MD

Lisa M. Asta, M.D. is board-certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, for which she is also a Media Representative (she has been interviewed for “Kids Health” on Health Radio, and quoted in Parenting Magazine, USA Today, and the New York Times, among other publications). She is a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California at San Francisco and past pediatric chair at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek. She graduated from Temple University School of Medicine and the Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Asta is also a writer whose fiction has appeared in Inkwell, Philadelphia Stories, Schuylkill, and Zeniada. Her essays have appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Hippocrates, the San Jose Mercury News, and The New Physician Magazine. She is an occasional contributor to KQED public radio’s Perspectives series, and has written articles for Bay Area Parent, Valley Parent, Parents’ Press, and Parents Express, as well as online at,, and She wrote a chapter in The Field Guide to the Normal Newborn, ed. Gary Emmet, M.D. currently has two how-to videos for parents in production which feature Dr. Asta. For more on Dr. Asta’s writing, visit
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