THE HELP DESK The Help Desk: Top Tips

Get a deal on prescription drugs

Some pharmaceuticals are filling prescriptions for free for those who have lost both their job and their insurance.

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By Gerri Willis, CNN personal finance editor

For more information on managing your largest investment, check out Gerri Willis' 'Home Rich,' now in bookstores.

NEW YORK ( -- Paying for prescription drugs is getting harder. New drugs are more expensive than they used to be and consumers are shouldering more of the out-of-pocket costs. Here's how you can cut the cost of prescription drugs.

In a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, it was found that almost 30% of adults say they haven't filled a prescription because of the cost and about a quarter of people polled had split pills in two or skipped doses to make the medicine last longer. But there are ways that you can cut your prices -- especially if you're unemployed.

Pfizer (PFE, Fortune 500) recently announced that it would provide 70 of its most widely prescribed prescription drugs for free to people who have lost their jobs and health insurance. The company will give away the medicines for up to a year to people who lost their jobs since Jan. 1 and who have been on the Pfizer drug for at least three months. To sign up or get more info, call 866-706-2400.

Some stores have discount pharmacy services. For example, Kmart pharmacies have a 90 day generics program for $15, available anywhere in the country where there is a Kmart pharmacy. Costco (COST, Fortune 500), Sam's Club and BJ's pharmacies often have competitive prices. Membership is not required to use the pharmacy services. Go to their Web sites for more information.

Think about drug discount cards. They are available from state government, membership associations, non-profit organizations or for-profit businesses. You may be able to save from 15-50% on certain medicines. The cards may have annual fees that range from $30-$60 per family or up to $9 bucks a month.

Here are some places to get discount drug cards:

Keep in mind there may be income requirements. And of course, don't be shy. Ask your doctor for medicine samples.

The Web is a great tool for comparing price. Check out and One word of caution here, beware of fly-by-night sites, where your risk of getting counterfeit or tainted drugs rises. Look for sites that carry the "VIPPS" seal (it stands for Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site, and is awarded by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy).

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