Do drug discount cards work?

You have several options to help find good deals on your medication. You can use a prescription discount card or get a co-pay coupon from the drug company that manufactures your medication. That said, Dr. David Howard, professor of health policy at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health, cautions you may have to pay out-of-pocket for some deals.

"There are some programs that are meant to be used in place of insurance. They're a substitute for insurance. So you don't file the claim for the prescription drug with the insurance," says Dr. Howard.

That means the drug's cost won't count against your deductible.

"And so, if the money you spend on drugs is going to make the difference between reaching or not reaching the deductible, then you probably want to route that through insurance," adds Dr. Howard.

To find a discount using your insurance, Howard says, see if the company that makes your medication offers a co-pay assistance program that could cut your costs.

"Pharmaceutical companies know that if patients have to pay a lot of money out of pocket to use that drug, patients will be less likely to use that drug."

The savings vary, based on the drug you need.

"So, for very expensive drugs, drugs that you might take for cancer or rheumatoid arthritis, the manufacturers are very aggressive in offering discounts for patients,"

It's much harder to find co-pay deals on generics and older drugs, which Howard says actually may be your best bet.

"For some conditions, hypertension or diabetes, there are a lot of different drugs out there. And, in many cases, the newer drugs have only slight advantages over the older drugs," sums up Dr. Howard "So the thing to do would be to ask your doctor, 'Can I try the older drug, the less expensive drug?'

It's important to point out, going with a generic medication could cut the cost of your medicine by as much as 80 percent.