How To Save On Prescription Drug Costs

Prescription drugs costs can add up quickly, and with the busy lives we live, many of us do not consider whether we could be paying less for our prescription drugs. This is especially true when we are part of a group benefits plan that immediately covers all, or most of our prescription drugs costs.

Below we will go through different ways that you can save money for yourself, and your group benefits plan, the next time you visit the pharmacy for prescription drugs.

Request Generic Drugs Instead of Name Brand Drugs

Generic drugs are typically much less expensive than their name brand versions. A generic drug is essentially a copy, or “no name” version of a brand name drug. The generic drug is pharmaceutically equivalent to the brand name drug. It contains the identical medicinal ingredients, in the same amounts and in a similar dosage form. Generic medications may have different non-medicinal ingredients than the brand name drug, but the drug company must show that these do not affect the safety, efficacy, or quality of the drug when compared to the brand name drug.

Use a Pharmacy with Lower Dispensing Fees

When you buy your prescription drugs, you will notice on your receipt that you are being charged a dispensing fee (sometimes labeled “fee”). A dispensing fee is charged for every prescription you fill. If you are filling multiple prescription the costs can be significant and add up quickly.

The fee charged can vary widely from pharmacy to pharmacy. For example, one pharmacy in Toronto was charging a dispensing fee of only $3.89 per prescription, while another was charging $13.99 per prescription. If you were to fill five prescriptions, the first pharmacy would charge $19.45 in total dispensing fees while the other would charge $69.95. This example shows why it pays to shop around.

Even if you have an employer sponsored group benefits plan, shopping for lower dispensing fees can help lower the cost of the benefits plan for everyone enrolled, as the cost of the higher fees is going to impact the total amount that the insurer will have to pay out.

One thing to keep in mind is that a pharmacist can be a good source of information. If your pharmacist takes the time to provide consultations, medication reviews and advice, ensure that you weigh the quality of care that you are receiving against the cost of a higher, or lower dispensing fee.

Pay Less for Brand Name Drugs with A Pharmacy Discount Card

If you cannot take a generic drug for whatever reason or simply prefer name brand drugs, then you may end up paying a lot out of your own pocket depending on the prescription drug coverage you have. If you have no coverage at all, then you will likely be paying quite a bit. However, there are programs designed to help ease the higher cost of brand name drugs that will coordinate with your existing insurance plan(s), or if you don’t have insurance, they can be used on their own. Two such programs are innoviCares and RxHelp.


The innoviCares card is a free prescription savings card available to all Canadian residents and is funded by participating pharmaceutical manufacturers. Once you have the innoviCares card, you simply present it at your pharmacy and ask for the brand-name medication. Your card will automatically cover a portion of the cost of the covered drug.

Visit to see if your prescription drug is covered and to obtain an innoviCares card.

Below is a great example of the innoviCares card in use by an individual who has a group benefits plan. You’ll notice that the free prescription savings card paid $307.36 for this individual so that they could afford their brand-name medication.

group prescription drug savings


The card is another free prescription savings card eligible to Canadians for use at participating pharmacies in Canada. To use the card, you must have a valid prescription from your physician.

Visit to see if your prescription drug is covered and to obtain an RxHelp card.

Contact the Drug Manufacturer

If you cannot afford a prescription drug that you have to take you can be faced with a difficult scenario.

When a patient cannot afford their out-of-pocket costs for medicines despite their insurance coverage, or lack thereof, for some medicines the drug manufacturer may offer an assistance program. It is best to speak to your health care provider about looking into what assistance program(s) may be available with the manufacturer of your prescription drug.

Check for Government Subsidized Programs

In Ontario, The Ontario Drug Benefit program covers most of the cost of more than 4,400 prescription drug products. The Ontario Drug Benefit program is for residents of Ontario only, who have a valid health card.

To be eligible for the Ontario Drug Benefit Program, you must meet of the following requirements:

  • be at least 65-year-old;
  • be living in a long-term care home or a home for special care; or
  • be enrolled in one of these programs:
    • Home care
    • Ontario Works
    • Ontario Disability Support Program
    • Trillium Drug Program
    • OHIP+: Children and Youth Pharmacare
  • have high drugs costs relative to your income and are registered in the Trillium Drug Program;
    • The Trillium Drug Program is for people who spend approximately 3 to 4% or more of their after-tax household income on prescription-drug costs.
      • To qualify for the Trillium Drug Program, you must:
        • not already qualify for Ontario Drug Benefit (e.g. you are under 65 years old and not enrolled in a program such as Ontario Works); and
        • have a valid Ontario health card

For more information regarding the Trillium Drug Program, please visit

For more information regarding the Ontario Drug Benefit Program, please visit

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