This article appears in How To magazine 2018.

Rising drug costs hit the wallet especially hard because prescription drugs are not optional purchases.

About a third of people surveyed by Consumer Reports said they had experienced a price hike of at least $50 per month for one or more of their prescriptions in the last 12 months. There are ways to save.

Is a cheaper alternative available?

“The first thing to do is talk with your physician to see if there is a generic alternative that will work just as well but be less expensive,” said Dr. Michael Munger, a practicing family physician in Overland Park, Kansas, and president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Often generics will cost only $4 or $5, he said.

“You have to bring the subject up. Communicate with your physician that you want to save money,” Munger said.

The same strategy works if the medication you’ve been prescribed is not covered by insurance. Ask if there’s a generic available or if there is an option within the class of drugs that costs less but does the same job. Your pharmacist and physician will have to communicate.

Buy in bulk

For prescriptions that you take month after month, ask your pharmacist if you can buy by the bottle, which is usually 100 tablets, or about a three-month supply, Munger said. You may pay less buying a larger quantity and will only be charged one co-pay, he added.

Another option is to see if it’s possible to order pills in a higher dosage and take only half.

Ask your doctor if it safe to double the required dosage and how to split safely.

Patient-assistance programs

These programs are used mostly by brand-name drug makers, and each has rules about who qualifies. In many cases a person will need to prove they don’t qualify for insurance and that income is below a certain level.

“There’s an application process, but it’s straight-forward. The patient signs up, and the physician applies for them,” Munger said.

Visit the Partnership for Prescription Assistance, pparx.org, to connect with a program that might save you money.