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Want to Save on OTC Medication? Ask Your Doctor for a Prescription

One hand holding several packets of pills while the other removes a box of medication from a shelf.
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The whole appeal of over-the-counter (OTC) medications is that you don’t need a prescription to get them. In some cases, however, getting a prescription can save you a substantial amount of money.

Many times, when you go to the doctor, they might suggest a readily available, OTC medication for whatever’s ailing you. Whether you buy it off the shelf at your local Walgreen’s or from behind the counter at the pharmacy, the medication is the same, but, in many cases, the price is not.

Let’s take the common heartburn medication omeprazole (best known by the brand name Prilosec) for example. Even though omeprazole is now available as a generic that’s much cheaper than Prilosec, it still costs a decent chunk of change if you have to take the pills long-term.

If you purchase generic omeprazole off the shelf, a 42-pack of 20 mg pills (which is three packs of the 14-day treatment course) will run you around $20. That’s 48 cents a day for treatment. If you only take it occasionally (maybe a course or two per year to resolve temporary issues), that’s not such a big deal. However, if your doctor advises you to take it indefinitely, that’s around $173 per year in OTC medication costs.

If you ask your doctor to write a prescription for the medication, though, you can have it fulfilled by the pharmacy. This way, you can either get your insurance discount for it or use a discount coupon from a source like GoodRx.

This reduces the cost for a 30-day supply of 20 mg pills to anywhere between $2 to $6, depending on which pharmacy you go to or mail-order from. It puts your daily treatment cost between 7 and 21 cents (or $25 to $75 yearly).

Unfortunately, this won’t help you with every medication. For example, a year’s supply of the generic allergy medication loratadine runs about $13 whether you buy it off the shelf or with a prescription.

Still, it’s absolutely worth the moment it takes to check if you can get your OTC medication for cheaper with a prescription.

Jason Fitzpatrick Jason Fitzpatrick
Jason Fitzpatrick is the Editor in Chief of LifeSavvy. He has over a decade of experience in publishing and has authored thousands of articles at LifeSavvy, Review Geek, How-To Geek, and Lifehacker. Read Full Bio »
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