The Benefits of Drug Discount Cards


By Michelle Hill, CPhT

Have you ever wondered why prescription drug discount cards are so popular?  How can prescription drug discount card companies make money by giving discounts?

If you're a pharmacy technician, you have seen the sticker-shocked face of a patient at your pharmacy counter when you shared the cost of their prescribed medication. I remember feeling like the patient was gazing into the depths of my soul, attempting to discern if I was truthful about the exorbitant cost of a medication they needed. I can recount countless times the price of a medication was much higher than the patient expected.

As drug manufacturers, pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), and prescription drug company executives’ earnings are increasing; unfortunately, so are prescription drug costs for our patients. As pharmacy technicians, we care about our patients, and we want to help them in the best way possible. I felt a feeling of pride when I could find the best price and lower the patient's out-of-pocket cost for prescription medication. Even a slight savings can make an immense difference, especially for a patient who is living on a fixed income.

As pharmacy technicians, we often ask ourselves how we can best serve the patients and help them find the best deal on their medication. Drug discount cards have become increasingly popular over the last few years. Drug discount cards lower the patients' out-of-pocket cost than the cash price, and the discount cards are usually free.

Prescription drug discount cards help PBMs and customers save money, while marketers and the pharmacy make money. The discounted price is usually a percentage of the cash price and can vary from drug to drug. Often times a marketing company earns a fee for distributing and promoting the discount card.  Typically speaking all parties, (the marketer, the PBM, the pharmacy, and the patient) benefit.

Because the prescription drug price can vary among pharmacies, patients should compare the price of prescriptions drugs among several locations.  Some discount card apps or websites tell you the drug price for each location, so then the patient can compare the price and choose the location that best serves their financial situation, depending on the drugs they take. Another consideration when choosing whether it is best to use a drug discount card or not, the patient has a deductible with their insurance plan. The amount spent using a drug discount card will not count towards the deductible. This is especially important for senior citizens who may be enrolled in a Medicare Part D plan.

According to, “Many Medicare drug plans have a coverage gap, which is referring to as a "donut hole". The term refers to a temporary limit on what the drug plan will cover for medication. The coverage gap will only begin after you and your drug plan have spent a certain amount for covered medication.” 

Patients can get out of the coverage gap after they have spent a certain amount on prescription drugs.  If the patient is using a drug discount card, the amount spent is not applied to their Medicare Part D coverage gap. When serving our patients, we try to give them information to make the right choice according to their situation. When patients can afford their medication adherence and compliance increases.  Prescription discount cards can lower prescription drug costs for patients improving the patient's physical and financial wellness.