How to save on your medication

When you're feeling ill the last thing you want to worry about is how much you're spending on pricey pills and health treatments. Here's our simple guide on how to cut the price of your prescriptions and medicines so you can concentrate on a swift recovery.

Free prescriptions

All prescriptions cost a flat fee of £8.60,  they are free if you are:

  • Over 60 or under 16
  • Between 16-18 and in full-time education
  • Pregnant or have had a baby in the last 12 months
  • An NHS in-patient
  • Your partner receives income support, income-based jobseeker's allowance, income-related employment & support allowance, or pension credit guarantee credit.

Prescriptions are also free if you have a valid Medical Exemption Certificate, which are given for pregnancy and a range of illnesses such as epilepsy or cancer. Look at the NHS website for more information and to find out if you are eligible for an exemption.

Reduced price prescriptions

If you regularly need to shell out on prescriptions then you can save money by subscribing to a prescription prepayment certificate – basically a prescription season ticket!

A three-month one costs £29.10, a year costs £104 – and once you've got it, it covers all your prescriptions in that time. If you often have more than one prescription a month you are likely to save with this scheme.

You can spread the cost by direct debit so you won't have to pay for it all at once. Find out more about applying for a prescription prepayment certificate on the NHS website.

Go for over-the-counter instead

Sometimes you may be prescribed common medication such as painkillers or dermatology creams that are available much cheaper over the counter. Instead of spending £8.40 on the prescription, you may be able to save money buying over-the-counter products like aqueous cream, paracetamol, antihistamines or hydrocortisone cream. Ask your pharmacist for assistance.

Buy the cheaper brands

Pharmaceutical companies spend a fortune on marketing gimmicks that encourage you to only buy their well-known brands. The reality is that cheaper brands or supermarket own-brand medication often contains the exact same ingredients – and they're much cheaper!

EXPERT TOP TIP: Check the PL number on the side of the packet when comparing brands. This is the unique Product Licence number given exclusively to a particular drug made by a particular manufacturer. If the PL number is the same, it's the same drug!

For example, if you need Max Strength Cold & Flu Capsules, (such as Benylin Cold & Flu Max Strength Capsules, which are £4.50 on Ocado) the exact same product in own-brand packaging cost £3.29 at Boots and at Superdrug and just 95p at Wilko. The cheapest was just 95p at Wilko, a huge saving.

If you or your kids hate the taste of cheaper medicines, then make like Mary Poppins - but instead of a spoonful of sugar have a sip of orange juice. This will help the medicine go down and stop any nasty aftertaste!

Check out online pharmacies

Buying medicines online can be much cheaper, especially if you bulk buy, but make sure they're reputable and safe. Check that all websites you look at are registered and that they display the European common logo on every page, a legal requirement since July 2015. Also, steer clear of any sites that don’t ask for your prescription and try to prescribe you online instead.

Finally, make sure the medicine you're buying is within the use-by-date, especially if you're buying in bulk. Then go ahead and grab those bargains!

(Prices correct as of July 2017)