Getting access to meds without insurance, or with really expensive copays/high deductibles, can be rough. Here’s some possibilities for getting by.
–Multi-month prescriptions: Do you have an option with your insurance to get multiple months of meds at once, usually for a lower copay? This can be a little cheaper than paying a copay each month, and also be a way to have the medications you need if you know you’re going to lose insurance (for example: getting a three month supply in August if you know you’re going to lose coverage in September).
–Healthcare provider workarounds: Do you have a good relationship with your healthcare provider? Talk to them about your situation. They might be able to switch you to similar medications that are cheaper, or that you can get through an assistance program (see more details below). They also might be willing to write the prescription in a way that it would last you for two months instead of one. For example, if they write it for you to take it twice a day if you only actually take it once a day–you now have a two month supply. (This tactic is a little dicey so proceed with caution.) Are there meds that are not as necessary? Your provider might be able to help you prioritize which meds to take if you can’t afford them all. Make sure to ask your provider to write you lots of refills if you’re losing insurance–even if you have to pay out-of-pocket for the drugs, at least you’ll have saved yourself a large office visit fee.
–Paying for your meds out of pocket: Do you know how much your meds cost per month if you had to fill them without insurance? There are meds that cost thousands of dollars, but there also are some generic meds that are pretty cheap. You might be able to afford some out of pocket if necessary. And shop around–sometimes common meds can be bought for pretty cheap at the big box stores.
–Get your as needed meds now: Do you have any meds that you have to fill only occasionally? Like that asthma inhaler that’s been rolling around your sock drawer? Or your Epi pen that expired a couple months ago? The Narcan that’s shoved in your emergency medical kit? Get everything refilled while you can do it for cheaper/free.
–Stockpiling meds: Other medicines are potentially easy to get and could be helpful to access/store for your community as well as yourself (see more below about medication expiration dates). Just as a heads up–this isn’t necessary super legal. Make your own choices.
–Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs: These are programs, usually offered through the drug companies themselves, that offer discounted or free meds. They all have different rules and often need your healthcare provider’s signature, so start this before your insurance situation changes. Here’s a few sites that list pharmaceutical programs. You’ll need to search for your individual med one at a time, since different companies make different meds.
Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs
–Talk to social service providers. This stuff is really different state-to-state and even within the same state. But there’s a lot of programs out there that can help lower drug costs, such as programs that help people over 55, or programs that help people living with HIV/AIDS. Who knows which of these will still be around in 2017 and beyond, but it’s worth reaching out to your neighborhood health center or social service office to see what you might be able to get. We had pre-ACA workarounds that we might have to return to now.
–Online pharmacies: Online pharmacies could be cheaper and/or easier to use.
Miscellaneous medication info and resources
Cheap online source for Plan B, aka the morning after pill.
PrEP and PEP pharmaceutical assistance program
Medicine Expiration Dates
There’s a lot of conflicting information in the world about medication expiration dates and what they mean. Get informed and make our own decisions. Officially, you’ are not supposed to take meds past their expiration date.
According to a summary of a recent FDA study, “…90% of more than 100 drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter, were perfectly good to use even 15 years after the expiration date. So the expiration date doesn’t really indicate a point at which the medication is no longer effective or has become unsafe to use. Medical authorities state expired drugs are safe to take, even those that expired years ago. A rare exception to this may be tetracycline, but the report on this is controversial among researchers.”
The FDA/DOD study itself says: “The actual shelf life for many products is much longer than the labeled shelf life. The stability
period can be variable from product to product or from lot-to-lot
within a product and only long-term and comprehensive
scientific studies can provide understanding of this variability.”
Still, the FDA officially says: “Expired medical products can be less effective or risky due to a change in chemical composition or a decrease in strength. Certain expired medications are at risk of bacterial growth and sub-potent antibiotics can fail to treat infections, leading to more serious illnesses and antibiotic resistance.”
More reading on using expired meds:
Shelf life of multi-use vials (i.e. for testosterone injection): The United States Pharmacopeia (USP) General Chapter 797  recommends the following for multi-dose vials of sterile pharmaceuticals: If a multi-dose has been opened or accessed (e.g., needle-punctured) the vial should be dated and discarded within 28 days unless the manufacturer specifies a different (shorter or longer) date for that opened vial. If a multi-dose vial has not been opened or accessed (e.g., needle-punctured), it should be discarded according to the manufacturer’s expiration date.
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