Posted by Elisabeth Leamy, Tue Jun 14 2011, 01:01am

If you are one of the many Americans who does not have prescription drug coverage, there are several secrets to savings that could really help you out

If you are one of the many Americans who does not have prescription drug coverage, there are several secrets to savings that could really help you out. Even if your insurance DOES cover medications, often the ones your doctor prescribes are not included in the plan or the co-pay is exorbitant. Here are several tweaks and tricks you can try in order to afford the prescriptions you need:

• Get Two Prescriptions for the Same Medication. Just in case a new medicine doesn't agree with you, you don't want to waste money on several months' worth. So instead, ask your doctor to write you two prescriptions: one that will last a couple of days or weeks and another, longer one that you can fill after that if the medication agrees with you and helps you.

• Beware of Prescription Drugs that End in "ER," "CD," "XR" and so on. These initials stand for "extended release" and "continuous delivery." They are often trumped up variations of medications that were big money makers for the manufacturer but lost their patent. Manufacturers sometimes invent slightly new versions of their biggest blockbusters and patent them in an attempt to keep the dollars flowing. That's their right. And it's your right to ask if older, cheaper, generic drugs will work just as well for you.

• Just Say No to Drugs - Brand New Ones, That Is. If your doctor offers you free samples of a medication for a chronic condition, you might want to pass. Pharmaceutical reps usually distribute freebies of the newest, most expensive medicines in their collection. If there is a less expensive, older drug, you don't want to get started on a pricey new one that you will have to pay for once the samples run out. On the other hand, if your doc can provide free samples for a brief, acute illness like a sinus infection, go for it.

• Save Not Just by What's Written but How It's Written. Ask your doctor to write "use as directed" instead of detailed dosing instructions if you want to split pills. Some insurance companies don't allow you to get more than a month's supply of medicine at a time. So, if your strategy is to get 30 higher dose pills and split them so they last two months that could be a problem. Exactly how you take those pills can be a private matter between you and your doctor. Ask your doctor to explain the pill-splitting protocol during your office visit instead of on the prescription pad.

• Look into Drug Discount Cards. Drug discount cards allow you to purchase approved drugs for 15 to 40 percent off. The Together RX Access card is the broadest, offering close to 300 brand name meds plus a pile of generics from several different manufacturers. To qualify, you must not be eligible for Medicare. For more information, visit: Medical manufacturers, who do not participate in this discount card, may have others of their own.

• Pharmaceutical Company Websites Can Be Sources of Freebies and Discounts. The more commercialized prescription drugs have gotten, the more drug companies have borrowed pages from more common products' playbooks. So figure out who makes medicines you take routinely and check out their sites. You may see coupons for discounts or even free samples. You then work through your doctor and pharmacy to take advantage of these offers.