The monthly cost of your cholesterol-lowering medications can add up, especially if the drug you are taking is not available in a generic form. The cost can grow even more if you are taking additional medications for other conditions besides your high cholesterol. Don’t be so quick to dump your cholesterol meds due to their cost just yet, though. You may not feel sick when your cholesterol is high, but the consequences of stopping your cholesterol medications could add on even more cost. Leaving your cholesterol levels persistently high could result in heart disease -- such as a heart attack -- if not treated.
The good news is that some of your cholesterol drugs can be obtained in their generic form. This list currently lists all of the cholesterol-lowering medications that are available as generics:
- Simvastatin (Zocor)
- Atorvastatin (Lipitor)
- Lovastatin (Mevacor)
- Pravastatin (Pravachol)
- Gemfibrozil (Lopid)
- Cholestyramine (Questran)
- Colestipol (Colestid)
- Fenofibrate (Antara, Fenoglide, Lofibra, Tricor, Triglide)
If your drug is not on this list and you are having trouble affording it, talk with your healthcare provider. In some cases, your doctor may be able to switch you to a medication that is available in a generic form or is less costly. Additionally, your healthcare provider may have samples of the brand-name form of the medication, or a voucher from the drug company, to give you the brand-name medication at a lower cost.
If this is not possible, you do have other options. In some cases, your healthcare provider can write you a prescription for your medication in a higher dose and you can cut the pills in half. For instance, if you take simvastatin 40 mg every day, your healthcare provider can prescribe simvastatin 80 mg (with one-half pill taken daily). Although this may cut down on your monthly cost, it does not work with all cholesterol drugs.
If your medication is not available in generic yet, call the manufacturer of that drug. Some drug companies have prescription assistance programs available to you, which will allow you to obtain your medication at no or minimal cost. Additionally, some pharmacies provide a discount program on medications that can save you on the cost of your brand-name or cholesterol-lowering drug
If you take prescription omega-3 fatty acids (Lovaza) or extended release niacin (Niaspan), talk with your healthcare provider about taking over-the-counter varieties of these medications. Although they are widely available and cheaper than prescription drugs, they may not be right for everyone. Fish oil and niacin over-the-counter products are not equivalent to their prescription counterparts, but they still may be able to help you lower your cholesterol without putting a huge dent in your pocketbook.
MICROMEDEX Healthcare Series via Thompson Reuters. Accessed 28 January 2009.
Lacy CF, Armstrong LL, Goldman MP, et al. Lexicomp's Drug Information Handbook, 15th ed 2007.