Living with Chronic Pain

How to Save on Prescription Medications in Canada


Almost everyone will need prescription medication at some point in their life. Although Canadian hospitals provide prescription drugs to in-patients at no cost, the same medicine can be expensive outside a hospital setting. The publicly funded drug plans, created by each provincial or territorial government, determine which prescriptions an eligible recipient can receive, and for which condition.

Most Canadians have access to health insurance through public or private plans; however, people with no coverage pay full cost for medicine. The cost of prescription medications is often a concern, even for those with insurance. Saving on prescription medicine is essential for many people to receive the appropriate health care needed, but finding these savings is usually difficult.

  • Use generic
    Name-brand medications are typically more costly than their generic counterparts. Many provinces, such as Manitoba, legally require pharmacies to substitute the generic alternative unless the prescribing physician specifically states that the name-brand is required. Both generic and name-brand drugs must contain the same amount of medicinal ingredients. Non-medicinal ingredients, such as colour, may differ, but do not impact the safety or efficacy.
  • Shop around
    Pharmacies may offer the same prescription at different prices. For prescriptions taken on a regular basis, comparing prices at different locations is beneficial.
  • Know your coverage
    Becoming familiar with private insurance plans can help save on prescription medications. Contact the insurance company to get information, such as how much is the deductible, what is the lifetime maximum coverage, and whether a receipt needs to be submitted for reimbursement. Provincial/Territorial programs are available to help lower the cost of prescription medicine for certain groups of people (e.g., age, income-based, etc.). Information on these programs can be found on each provincial/territorial government’s website.
  • Buy in bulk
    There is a dispensing fee for each refill; therefore, buying larger amounts at once eliminates the cost of unnecessary fees. Check insurance coverage beforehand, since some providers only cover a maximum of three months’ worth, or 100 pills, at once.
  • Ask for samples
    Some health care professionals can give samples of a prescription drug to individuals starting a new medication. Asking for samples helps decrease the cost of prescriptions and ensures the new medicine works as it should.
  • Find lower dispensing fees
    Dispensing fees can add up quickly and vary in price per pharmacy. Comparing dispensing fees prices for each retailer or pharmacy helps decrease the amount spent. In some cases, a province places a cap on dispensing fees.
  • Use a savings program
    Reward programs, offered by various retailers, can lower the overall cost of prescription medication. In some provinces, reward programs are not allowed to collect points on prescription transactions. Be sure to research the specifics of each program.
  • Split pills
    Not all medicine can be safely halved, especially capsules or time-release pills. If a medication can be safely split, it may be possible to obtain a larger dosage prescription that can be divided in order to get the correct dose. This results in one dose costing half, or just slightly more. Please check with the physician and pharmacist to ensure the medication is available in a dosage that can be split appropriately.

Additional source: MapleMoney

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