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July 18, 2019 by Dr. Kyle Varner in Prescriptions without Insurance

I’m sure you’ve seen videos on the internet of ‘life hacks’ — little tricks you can do to make your life easier.  

They’re great, I especially like the ones that save you money. 

Getting around the expensive hurdles of day-to-day life gives me an immense feeling of satisfaction.

Life hacks can range from serious things such as picking credit cards to give me more flight miles for traveling, to simple things like opening a blister pack with a can opener.

You might not realize it, but there are a number of ways to hack your healthcare costs as well. 

And why wouldn’t you want to? Americans spend on average $1,112 a year on prescription drugs, which is no small sum for the average household. In fact, I don’t know of another country where patients pay through the nose for prescriptions like we do…

I’ve already shared with you a number of different tactics to try to lower your monthly prescription bill, and here’s a really quick and easy hack that you should check out as well.

Viagra: The Classic Example of Pill Cutting

One of the classic examples of this technique is Viagra. It has an odd pricing system because most of the pills cost $1.50. That’s the same for 25 mg, 50 mg and 100 mg. You’ll find this with many drugs and different healthcare systems. 

The pricing is bizarre to us common folk, but remember healthcare pricing is often seemingly irrational as it doesn’t operate under conventional conditions. For example, in the UK, dental treatment is in three bands, regardless of supply and demand. In many cases, if you go private for a procedure it can actually be cheaper

So, why not take advantage of this system? Why not just buy the strongest dose, and then cut them up to the dosage you need? Just buy a pill cutter and cut them up. If you only need 25 mg, why not just buy 100 mg and split it into quarters? You now have four times the amount of Viagra per price point. 

In fact, you could cut your costs by 75 percent

I’d recommend getting pills over capsules any day. This is because capsules can’t be cut as they contain liquid, and trying to separate liquids into different portions at this size is next to impossible. 

How to split up your pills

Now, many pills are designed to be cut. It’s not for your benefit, mind you, it just simply makes sense to manufacture them this way. You can often tell because they’ll have these grooves down the middle of the pill.

When you get your pills, the instructions will say whether they can be cut or crushed. This will either be on the packaging or supplied paper instructions. 

Use your pill cutters and cut them into the portions you need. If you need 25 mg and you’ve bought 100 mg, cut them into quarters. Sometimes the pills will be very small so they’re difficult to cut into portions that small. 

That’ll be up to you. If you can do it, it’s absolutely worth it because of the price discounts, but not every pill is suitable to be cut into those denominations.

I’d also invest in some sort of pill container if you have different packages of different strength pills. A quarter of one strength is going to be different from a quarter of one from another strength so you need to compartmentalize them. This is also really good for your safety so you don’t take too much of a pill. 

How to Ask Your Doctor to Help

Cooperating with your doctor is one of the best ways to go about this if you buy your drugs domestically. What you need to do is to first ask them for higher strength drugs. This is another reason why I’d advise changing your primary care model to direct primary care.

With direct primary care, you pay a set amount each month and have unlimited access to your doctor. This allows them to spend more time with you and discuss your health, instead of you being a box that needs to be ticked.

They also aren’t beholden to insurance companies, which means they can prescribe drugs as they see fit and aren’t burdened by insurance companies’ rules. You should talk to your doctor about getting higher strength drugs to save you money. 

This is a good way because doctors have no incentive to sell you lower-strength drugs to make more money like insurance companies do, but they have the power of prescription. Even if you ask through the pharmacy, they will have to call the doctor to get the prescription.

Therefore, it’s best to start off your prescription with the higher strength drugs and then cut them up. If you start with the lower strength, it becomes a lot of hassle for the doctor to change that, and it’s even more difficult with insurance.

Speaking of insurance, you have to be extra careful if you’re using it. This is because they’re very picky about how they pay for their clients’ drugs. Remember, they have every incentive to get the weakest and cheapest drugs to make the maximum amount of money. 

It’s actually incredibly easy to accidentally commit insurance fraud: You need to take the drugs as the doctor has prescribed them. It’s okay if you get 100 mg pills to be taken as quarters, but it’s not okay to be prescribed 100 mg pills each dose and then secretly only take 25 mg because that’s all you actually need.

So you really need to be careful and make sure everything goes through your doctor. You’re allowed to convince your doctor to prescribe higher strength pills to be taken in quarters. And you absolutely should, because your doctor might not suggest it as an option.

But what you’re not allowed to do is play up your issues to your doctor to convince them you need 100 mg. Because then in the eyes of the law, you’re stealing from insurance companies. Just make sure you’re very clear with your doctor and have them on board and you will be fine.

Conclusion

Splitting pills is an easy way to slash your prescription costs down to a fraction of what they once were. All you need to do is cooperate with your doctor to alter your prescription to a portion of a pill at a higher dose. If you can, get direct primary care to make this easier, and you’ll be able to take pills for cheap in no time.

It’s completely legal if you do it right, and it’s a great way to get your prescription costs under control. After all, the cards are stacked against the average person, so why not make the most with what you have?

This information is intended to help readers be more informed about their health options when speaking with a professional, but it should not be used alone to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease or condition. Be sure to speak to a qualified doctor before taking any action to make sure that your choices reflect your actual health situation.

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