- Ask your doctor or pharmacist about generic medicines. Generic medicines are usually less expensive than brand name medications. While there may not be generic options for some chemotherapy, hormonal, or targeted therapy medicines used to treat breast cancer, there are a number of generic choices available for pain medicines. For example, naproxen is the generic version of brand-name pain relievers Naprosyn and Anaprox. Depending on your situation, you may be able to take the generic rather than the brand-name medicines.
- Ask your doctor for samples of any medicines you're prescribed. Keep in mind that samples might not be available for all medicines. But if you take a sample medication and have side effects that are difficult to manage, you won't have to pay the cost of a full prescription if you switch. Note: Doctors cannot give out samples of narcotic analgesics for pain (also called opioids, such as morphine, codeine, or oxycodone). To keep costs down, ask for just part of a prescription to make sure that the medication works for you before paying for a full supply.
- Ask for medications in the form of a pill if at all possible. Pills tend to cost less than other forms of medicine. Most pain medications are given as pills taken by mouth, but if your doctor recommends a different form of treatment, you might ask if you can take a pill instead.
- Shop around. Call the pharmacies in your area to check the prices of the medicines you've been prescribed. You may find that some larger stores have lower prices for commonly prescribed pain medicines and antibiotics.
- In general, don't order medicines from online pharmacies. While some online pharmacies may offer low prices, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises people not to buy medicine online. Some online pharmacies may not be licensed. Some online pharmacies may sell medicine that is unapproved, or "counterfeit" medicines. Counterfeit medicines may look exactly like the real FDA-approved medication, but are impure (contain ingredients other than the medicine) so the dosage isn't what's listed on the label. If there is no other way to afford your medicine than through an online pharmacy, make sure the web site has the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy's Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites Seal, also known as the VIPPS Seal. This seal means the online pharmacy applies and meets state licensure requirements and other VIPPS criteria.
Medicine assistance programs
Many pharmaceutical companies have set up programs to help people get the medicine they need at a reduced cost, or no cost in some cases. Other organizations offer help paying for medicines and other treatments to people in need. Below are some of the most well-known programs and organizations. You may need to meet certain age or income requirements to enroll in some of these programs. Talk to your doctor's office, health insurance company, or hospital social worker to learn about local programs in your area that may be able to help.
- Abraxis Oncology, which makes Abraxane (chemical name: albumin-bound or nab-paclitaxel), offers Celgene Patient Support Program. Call 1-800-931-8691 to find out more.
- AstraZeneca, which makes Arimidex (chemical name: anastrozole), Faslodex (chemical name: fulvestrant), Novaldex (chemical name: tamoxifen), and Zoladex (chemical name: goserelin), offers the AZ&Me program. Call 1-800-AZandMe (1-800-292-6363) for more information.
- Pfizer, which makes Aromasin (chemical name: exemestane) and Ellence (chemical name: epirubicin), offers a variety of patient assistance programs. Call 1-866-706-2400 for more information.
- Genentech, which makes Avastin (chemical name: bevacizumab), Herceptin (chemical name: trastuzumab), and Xeloda (chemical name: capecitabine) offers four assistance programs. Call 1-866-4-ACCESS (1-866-422-2377) for more information. Genentech also offers Xeloda Access Solutions. For more information on this program, call 1-888-249-4918.
- Eli Lilly, which makes Evista (chemical name: raloxifene) and Gemzar (chemical name: gemcitabine), offers Lilly TruAssist. Call 1-855-LLY-TRUE (1-855-559-8783) for more information.
- Novartis, which makes Femara (chemical name: letrozole) and Zometa (chemical name: zoledronic acid), offers a variety of patient programs.
- GlaxoSmithKline, which makes Tykerb (chemical name: lapatinib), offers Cares by GSK. Call 1-888-ONE-GSKCARES (1-888-663-4752) for more information. GlaxoSmithKline also offers the Commitment to Access program for cancer and specialty medicines. For more information on this program, call 1-8-ONCOLOGY1 (1-866-265-6491).
- AARP offers discounts on prescriptions to members.
- BenefitsCheckUp helps people 55 and older find public and private programs that can help them pay for medicines and other needs. The site is a service of the National Council on Aging.
- CancerCare Co-Payment Assistance Foundation, 1-866-552-6729, offers financial assistance with insurance co-pays and medicine costs. The foundation is affiliated with CancerCare, an organization that offers support services for people diagnosed with cancer.
- HealthWell Foundation offers financial assistance with medication costs, insurance co-pays, and premiums for people diagnosed with specific diseases, including breast cancer.
- NeedyMeds, Inc., 1-215-625-9609, is a web site that offers information on a number of programs that help pay for medicines. NeedMeds, Inc. only provides information -- the organization doesn't help with specific problems.
- The Partnership for Prescription Assistance, 1-888-477-2669, helps people without prescription coverage find assistance programs to help them get the medicines they need.
- The Patient Access Network Foundation, 1-866-316-7263, offers financial assistance to people who can't pay for treatment. To be eligible for the breast cancer fund, you must have health insurance.
- Patient Advocate Foundation Co-Pay Relief Assistance Program, 1-866-512-3861, helps people with insurance pay for the medicines and treatments they need.
- Together Rx Access, 1-800-444-4106, offers discounts on a many brand-name and generic medicines. This program is for people with no prescription medication insurance and who aren't eligible for Medicare. You also must be a legal resident of the United States or Puerto Rico.
The resources listed in this section are based in the United States and the regulations mentioned are U.S. regulations. Other countries may have different laws regulating insurance coverage and hospital operations. If you live outside the United States, ask your doctor about resources in your country.