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Help with Medications

How to Manage Your Medications

In order to stay safe and healthy, make sure all your healthcare providers and pharmacists know all the medications you are taking, including vitamins, supplements, over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol or cold medicine, and herbal remedies or traditional medicines. Have a list of medications handy when you talk to them.

pharmacist handing customer prescriptions

Questions to Ask your Provider or Pharmacist:

  • What does this medication do and how will this medication make me feel?
  • What side effects might I experience and how will this medication interact with other medications?
  • Is there any food, drink, other medication, or activity that I should avoid when taking this medication?
  • How long do I take this medication? Sometimes you can stop taking a medication as soon as you feel better, others you take until the bottle is empty, and some you need to take on a regular basis.
  • How and when should I take this medication? In the morning or evening? On an empty stomach or with food and/or water? By itself or at the same time as other medications?


How to Take Your Medications

Ask the doctor, pharmacist or nurse for instructions on how to take the medications. Also read your pill bottle as the instructions are often on the label. The pharmacy can print the instructions when you pick up your prescriptions, so be sure to ask. You can also ask a Community Health Representative (CHR) to help you put your medications into a pill box.

Some medications have significant side effects. If your medications are not working well for you, ask your healthcare provider about taking a different medication to improve the side effects. Ask if you should keep taking the medication until you get an updated prescription.

Where to Get Your Medications

IHS/Tribal Pharmacy: Members of a federally-recognized American Indian Tribe can get their medications at the local IHS or Tribal pharmacy at no cost. Visit the IHS Find Health Care page to locate the nearest one.

Hospital Pharmacy: If you are prescribed a medication while you are in the hospital, you can get it at the hospital pharmacy, or at IHS.

Federally-Qualified Health Center (FQHC) Pharmacy: You can get your medications from an FQHC pharmacy, where many medications are available at a lower cost than at a commercial pharmacy. To find a FQHC, see the Find a Health Center tool or call the Human Resources and Services Administration at (877) 464-4772.

Commercial Pharmacy: You can get your medications at a commercial pharmacy, such as Walgreen’s or CVS. 

If the IHS or Tribal pharmacy does not have a medication that prescribed to you by an IHS or IHS-referred provider, you can get your medication filled at another pharmacy, and it will be paid for by IHS Purchased/Referred Care (PRC). If your prescriptions are not covered by the IHS/Tribal clinic, hospital, or FQHC pharmacy, you may need to pay some of the cost.

How to Pay for Your Medications

If you have health insurance, it should cover most of the cost of a prescription medication, as long as it’s on your health plan’s formulary, meaning the list of medications your health plan will pay for.

Your healthcare provider can find a medication that your health plan will pay for when they prescribe it. If the medication you need is not on your health plan and there is no other medication you can take, you can file an appeal. Visit this page on Getting Prescription Medications for more information on how to work with your insurance provider to get your prescriptions filled and what to do if your medications are not covered.

The Patient Advocate Foundation provides detailed information on how to file a “formulary exception” to get your insurance to cover the medication you need. See the foundation’s Filing a Formulary Exception page.

If you have Medicare, you can file a claim to get a prescription approved or paid for. See the Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage Appeals page for more detailed information on how to file a claim, file a complaint, and check the status of your claim.

Help with Medication Costs

If the cost of a medication is a concern, ask the pharmacist how much the medication will cost if you pay out-of-pocket. Sometimes medications cost less out-of-pocket than with your health insurance. You can also try a different pharmacy, where it may be available at a lower price. There are a few other options to help with medication costs:
  • Generic drugs are usually less expensive than the original, brand name version. If your healthcare provider has prescribed you a brand name drug, talk to them about whether a generic version would be equally effective.
  • Patient Assistance Programs are sometimes offered by drug manufacturers to help patients who can’t afford their medications. There is usually an eligibility requirement, such as income level. Ask your provider about this option or search for your medication on the Medicare Find a Pharmaceutical Assistance Program page.
  • Drug coupons or vouchers are offered by some drug companies, healthcare providers, and commercial pharmacies. These coupons usually have requirements, for example that you get your medication at a certain commercial pharmacy or that the coupon can’t be used if you have Medicaid or Medicare. Search for free coupons, vouchers or discount drug cards on the NeedyMeds websiteDo not get coupons or vouchers from any website that asks you to pay for something or provide personal information.
  • Discount drug cards are available from different organizations and companies to help lower some medication costs. Ask your pharmacist whether the discount drug card or your health insurance card will save you more money, as you can’t use both. Avoid discount cards that charge a monthly fee or require you to give them your personal information.
  • Mail order or online drugs: Sometimes you can get a larger quantity of medication from a mail order or online program for the same cost as the smaller quantity you would get at a pharmacy. Mail order programs are convenient because they remind you to refill your prescription. See this WebMD page on Buying Drugs Online and Mail-Order Pharmacies to learn more about how to find a safe mail order or online drug program.
If you still can’t pay for your medications, tell your healthcare provider and they will try to help you find a solution.

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