- Buy generic medications: There's a reason pharmaceutical giants, such as Pfizer and Merck, don't look forward to the day their patents expire. Once that happens, others can make the same medications and sell them for a fraction of the cost, often at the expense of the larger pharmaceutical outlets' bottom lines. These drugs are called generics. Patients should be aware, however, that doctors often prescribe the designer drugs, and typically must be asked to prescribe generic versions. Unless your prescription is marked DAW (dispense as written), a pharmacist will substitute the generic form.
- Ask for samples: In an effort to get physicians to prescribe their medications, many companies provide free samples to doctors. For short-term illnesses, some doctors may provide their patients with enough free samples to last the duration of the illness. It's important for patients to know as well that they're not guinea pigs in this scenario, where the drugs are being tested on them. All drugs must pass rigorous testing before they can be given out to the public. Samples can also be a good way to see what your reaction will be to a given drug, before you go and fill an entire prescription.
- Inquire about expiration dates: Many a debate has gone on concerning the validity of prescription drug expiration dates. Some consumer advocacy groups have found that these expiration dates are often meaningless and that drugs can be taken long after their listed expiration date. However, anyone considering this should consult their physician first and foremost.