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Making Prescription Meds Affordable

As the economy sinks, many moms and dads are wondering how they'll afford medications for their little ones. Kate Kelly, Managing Editor of American Baby Magazine, has some advice on stretching your dollars at the drug store.

Before you make a trip to the drug store or the doctor, take stock of what you already have at home. "Go to your doctor with a list of everything you're taking and what the dosages are," says Kelly. You want to be sure that as your child grows or gains weight, he or she is still taking the right amounts of medicine.

If your doctor has prescribed a medicine, ask if there is a generic form. "The generics have the exact same active ingredients," says Kelly. "Where there's a difference is often in the color, taste or texture." Generic medicines are also cheaper than name brand meds, usually between 30% and 60% cheaper. There are name brands of other-the-counter drugs, too. Try buying the store brand instead of the name brand to save some money.

Keep in mind, too, that sometimes your doctor may have samples of an antibiotic in his or her office. "He often gets them free from drug companies and they're just sitting in his office," says Kelly. Sometimes, the doctor will have enough samples to fill an entire prescription. If not, a few samples may carry you through a day or two, which can also help cut down on your pharmacy bill because you'll be buying less medication. Or, "If you're taking it for a chronic condition, you can at least test it out and see if the drug works for you before getting a prescription filled," says Kelly. If you're not familiar with how much a drug costs, ask your doctor for an estimate. This way, you won't be surprised at the pharmacy counter.

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Your employer may also be able to save you some money at the drug store. Many companies offer flex spending accounts for medical costs. "In the beginning of the year, you decide how much money you think you're going to spend on healthcare bills," says Kelly. There is a limit to how much you can contribute, but the advantage to using a flexible spending account is that the money is stashed away pre-tax. Throughout the year, you submit medical and prescription bills and your company reimberses you with the money you've set aside. Some companies even reimberse common items like sunscreen, so investing in a flex account can really pay off. How much will you save? Take a look at the tax bracket you fall into. "If you're in the 25% tax bracket, then that medication has essentially cost you 25% less than if you paid the market rate," says Kelly.

Once you have your medications home, you can make them last a little longer by storing them properly. Strangely enough, keeping them in a bathroom medicine cabinet isn't the best place for them. Heat and humidity from the shower can get into medicine bottles and degrade the formulation, making them less effective. Instead, store them in a hall closet or in the kitchen.

Also, store medications in their original containers. Some medicines are very sensitive to light; removing them from their original amber-colored containers can let light in, making them expire quicker. Plus, dosage directions are on the original packaging.

It's also important to remove any cotton balls from new pill bottles. "Cotton balls absorb moisture, and again that causes your medication to degrade even faster," says Kelly.

For more information on stretching your dollars at the drug store, as well as additional parenting advice, click here to visit www.AmericanBaby.com.

By Erin Petrun

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