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Medicine or food - the difficult decision many face but should it even be that way?

Finding help at the pharmacy when it comes to costs
Finding help at the pharmacy when it comes to costs 03:33

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - Not a single day passes when pharmacists don't face a patient who is struggling to afford their medication. 

Many face the choice of medicine or food so is there anything that can be done? 

If you hear nothing else from this report today, hear this - if you're having difficulties affording your medicine...ask your pharmacist for help. 

Jeff Wilson is the third generation Wilson behind the pharmacy counter at Wilson's Pharmacy in Lawrenceville and feels for his customers' struggles. 

"It's a pretty common thing nowadays because medications are so expensive," he said. "Some co-pays are pretty high as well."

Dale Mitchell is one of those people doing the financial juggling act. 

"You do watch what you buy food-wise," Mitchell said. "You have to make sure you pay all your bills and then comes a prescription. There have been times when I've had a prescription for pickup but I'm kind of like trying to coordinate it with my next paycheck so that can be pretty stressful."

For Samira Daukoru it was a good day because there was no copay which was a surprise. 

Meanwhile, Wilson said there are ways to get help. 

"It's always good to ask - we never mind answering questions," he said. 

He explained that while there's no wiggle room when the insurance companies set the price for the name-brand drugs but generics, that can be an option. 

"We might be able to give you a 90-day supply where you're paying $47 for a 30-day supply," Wilson said. "We might be able to give you a 90-day supply for $19." 

Also, don't dismiss the idea of paying cash for common generics like a diuretic. 

"We offer that for 180 days for $15," Wilson explained. "[For] a lot of people that's less than their copay." 

While programs like GoodRx might not be good for the pharmacy it can help the customer. 

"The first three prescriptions I filled this morning, I lost $37," Wilson said. 

So in instances like that, it's take the loss or lose customer. Meanwhile, other programs like lottery-funded PACE help those over the age of 65 on Medicare. 

"It doesn't cost us anything and you know it doesn't cost you anything, but it can save significant dollars," Wilson said. 

Of course, don't forget the coupons. 

"If you're under 65 and you have regular insurance, and you have a new drug that's expensive, always check the internet to see if there are coupons available," he said. 

Wilson said he's accepted that it's going to be a long-term issue but not accepting it has to be this way. 

He's in the process of organizing pharmacists around the area to push for reforms, especially to help those on Medicare who face expensive gaps in coverage. 

Finally, while name-brand drugs covered by insurance are set at the same prices - for generics, they can differ from pharmacy to pharmacy. If you're able to find it cheaper somewhere else, talk to your pharmacist and they might be willing to work with you to keep you as a customer. 

Remember, it all begins with talking to your pharmacy and asking about discounts. 

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