9 ways to save on over-the-counter drugs

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Over-the-counter medications are useful for managing pain, alleviating symptoms and preparing your household for illness. But OTC products aren’t usually covered by insurance, and they can sometimes be more expensive than prescription drugs.

Whether you’re managing a major health condition or battling the flu, it pays to reduce your OTC spending. Here are nine ways to save on these medications.

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1. Use an FSA or HSA

Employers sometimes offer flexible spending accounts to employees, while individuals who participate in high-deductible health plans can open health savings accounts. There are some differences between these account types, but they both let you save funds tax-free for medical expenses, including eligible OTC medications.

Check your plan’s list of qualified expenses for eligible medications. Some purchases may only require you to submit a receipt, while others may need a prescription or letter of medical necessity from your doctor. Either way, FSAs and HSAs allow you avoid taxes on funds you use to make eligible OTC purchases.

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2. Get the prescription equivalent

Certain OTC drugs have prescription equivalents that are eligible for insurance coverage. Your insurance copay for a prescription medication may be cheaper than the OTC version. 

This strategy only works for certain medications, and OTC products are often cheaper than prescriptions. Check with your physician and pharmacist when they recommend an OTC medication to find out if you can save by going the prescription route. Check out more tips on how to save on prescriptions here.

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3. Buy generic medications

Most OTC drugs have generic versions that are as safe to use as their name-brand counterparts. The Food and Drug Administration subjects them to the same reviews and guidelines. They must also have the same active ingredients, dosage and effectiveness.

Generic drugs are usually cheaper than their brand-name counterparts. When you pay more for the brand-name version, you’re really just paying for marketing. Look for the generic option the next time you shop.

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4. Get a store membership

Whether you buy your OTC medications at a pharmacy, grocery store, big box store or online retailer, a store membership can help you save. Check with your supplier to see if they offer a store membership that you can use to save money on your OTC purchases. For example, the CVS ExtraCare card lets you earn 2% back in ExtraBucks on eligible purchases, which can be redeemed for future CVS transactions. Here are some more ways to save at CVS.

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5. Shop around

Your favorite OTC supplier might not offer the best prices. Check with different stores to find the lowest price. Online sellers may also be able to undercut your local pharmacies and retailers.

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6. Stock up on larger quantities

Many OTC medications offer bigger savings the more you buy. For example, a small bottle of aspirin may be more expensive per pill than a larger container. When it comes to medications that your household uses frequently, you can save by stocking up on them. Next time you’re at the store, compare the price per pill or per dose between smaller and larger bottles.

Check expiration dates and don’t buy large quantities of medicines that will expire before you can use them. While you’re out shopping, check out these other items you should buy in bulk (and individually)

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7. Hunt for coupons

If you have a favorite brand of OTC medication, check the manufacturer’s website for coupons before you shop. Alternatively, you can check the retailer’s coupons or look for sale items in the store.

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8. Check with your doctor

Your physician may recommend against buying certain OTC medications or know of cheaper alternatives. If you’re concerned about the cost of OTC drugs, check with your doctor to see if you’re taking an unnecessary medication or if there’s a less expensive option.

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9. Switch your kids from liquids to pills

Liquid medications offer several advantages for kids: They’re easy to swallow and often come in flavors that are tasty enough. After a certain age, though, you may want to switch your kids to pills, as they usually cost less than liquids. Of course, this depends on the child and your comfort with administering medications in pill form.

We’re nearing the kickoff of health insurance open enrollment, so if you’re considering switching insurance providers for one with a plan that better suits your prescription needs, check out this state-by-state guide to the Obamacare health insurance open enrollment period.

This article originally appeared on Policygenius and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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