Employee & Community Health

Cost tips: Medications for diabetes

2/7/2019 by Joseph Herges, PharmD, RPh

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Optimal treatment of type 2 diabetes often changes during the course of a person's life and frequently requires multiple medications. Metformin, a generic, affordable diabetes medication, is most often our first-line medication since it's safe, effective and doesn't cause weight gain. 

However, if metformin therapy isn't sufficient, there are many secondary treatment options, depending on each patient's needs. Your care team generally tries to prescribe the least-expensive therapeutic options, but some inexpensive, generic treatment options, while effective, can carry increased risk for adverse effects, such as low blood sugar symptoms and weight gain. 

There are newer, brand-name medications on the market for type 2 diabetes that may be a better choice for you. They offer other potential advantages for some patients, such as weight loss, less risk of low blood sugar symptoms and cardiovascular benefit. However, they can be more expensive. 

These tips can help you find the best value for diabetes medications. 

Manufacturer savings cards

Manufacturers for most brand-name medications, including insulin, offer savings cards for qualifying patients. If you have a nongovernment-funded prescription insurance plan, such as Medicare or Medicaid, you probably qualify for these discounts, which cover varying amounts of your copay after your insurance pays its portion. 

To get a savings card:

  • Search the internet for the website of the medication.
  • On the site, look for a section offering a savings option, which will lead you to a series of questions to determine if you qualify for the savings card. It's important to read the fine print. 
  • If you qualify, you can download a printable card. Present the card in person at the pharmacy, or if you call in your prescriptions, give the information over the phone. 
  • These cards generally are valid for one year. Once a card expires, you can download a new one. 

Pharmacy discount formularies

Many pharmacies have a discounted formulary for select generic medications. These medications are typically $4 for a 30-day supply or $10 for a 90-day supply. These discounts would be most useful if you don't have prescription insurance. Certain pharmacies also offer discounted insulin options. If you're unable to afford your insulin, discuss it with your care team. 

Medication coupon websites (Goodrx®, RxSaver®, WebRx®)

Multiple websites offer drug discount coupons, which can be useful in some cases as an alternative to prescription insurance. However, if you plan to use your prescription insurance, the coupons won't work. They're most useful if you don't have prescription insurance. Savings on these websites can be very hit or miss, but are worth a try. Once at a coupon website, you will:

  • Enter your zip code and search for the exact medication name, strength and quantity you have been prescribed. 
  • The site will list various price quotes with coupons for each particular pharmacy. 
  • You must match the coupon with the pharmacy you plan to use. 
  • Coupons are accepted in most cases, but the pharmacy does reserve the right to decline them. 

Resources to help with Medicare Part D enrollment

The process for enrolling for and choosing between many available Medicare Part D prescription drug plans can be overwhelming. Depending on your specific medication and health care needs, some plans may be more beneficial than others. These resources are available to help you find the plan that fits you best. 

Senior LinkAge Line (1-800-333-2433 or www.seniorlinkageline.com)

  • Free Minnesota-based service offering internet or phone support to help you choose or switch your Medicare plan. 

Medicare website (www.medicare.gov)

  • Sign up or change plans online
  • Online resources to answer common questions about Medicare
  • Help for finding a plan

Joe Herges, PharmD, RPh, is a pharmacist in Employee and Community Health's (ECH) Mayo Family Clinics Northeast and Kasson.