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4 smart strategies to save on prescription drugs

With the cost of prescription drugs too high for many, Stephanie Ruhle has strategies to help you save on your next refill.

Consumers have gotten used to seeing higher prices at the grocery store and the gas pump and now many say they're feeling the pinch when it comes to prescription medications.

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, eight in ten Americans say the cost of prescription drugs is unreasonable.

Certain groups are much more likely to report difficulty affording medication, including those who take four or more prescription drugs, those with chronic conditions in their households, and those with an annual household income of less than $40,000 said the study.

According to the study, about three in ten adults report not taking their medicines as prescribed at some point in the past year because of the cost. Some Americans have resorted to taking over-the-counter drugs instead of their prescriptions, while others have even cut pills in half or skipped doses.

Before you miss your meds, NBC News senior business correspondent Stephanie Ruhle has some strategies for getting the drugs you and your family need without breaking the bank.

Where you fill your prescription matters

Ruhle said that where you get your medications can make a big difference in how much you pay —and that there are plenty of options out there to choose from.

"From big chains to independent stores and online pharmacies, you'll want to comparison shop," she said. "Chains might be the most convenient, but don't forget to check for good deals. Your local independent pharmacy may get you the most savings."       

Ruhle said that if you're using an online pharmacy, the first thing to do is make sure it's legit. "The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy has a list on their website where you can check to see if a site is verified.  

"If you're on Medicare, you may qualify for extra help," said Ruhle. Consider using a mail-order pharmacy. Visit for more information.

"No matter where you shop, always ask for coupons and other savings at the counter," she said.

Ask your doctor for generics

"Always ask your doctor if you can get the generic version instead of the name brand," said Ruhle. "That can be a big cost savings right there."

Do your homework by visiting site such as GoodRx, and Blink Health to comparison shop by both generic and name brand as well as by pharmacy, Ruhle suggested.

"If you take mostly generic medications, an online pharmacy might work well for you since they can buy in bulk and sell to you at a discount."

If you still have sticker shock from your bill, make sure to talk to your pharmacist or even the drug manufacturer, said Ruhle, as there may be a program for discounts or other deals available to help keep things more affordable.

Understanding your insurance coverage

When filling your Rx, it's essential to understand the terms of your insurance plan. "If you have a high deductible, it may make more sense to pay out of pocket," said Ruhle. For example, if you have a one or two thousand dollar deductible, you'll have to spend that much before your insurance will start to kick in.     

"Not all prescriptions count toward your deductible, so make sure to read the fine print," said Ruhle.    

It also makes sense to check the out-of-pocket price for the drug you need, as some insurance plans have a standard co-pay for all prescriptions but the medication you need may even cost less than that price.

"Consider using a membership-based service like ScriptCo or go to a big box warehouse club to get a better deal," said Ruhle.

Be smart with your scripts

When it comes to filling your script, online isn't always the best bet. Even if you may end up saving a few bucks, a brick-and-mortar pharmacy offers the benefit of a pharmacist who knows you and your list of medications. They can make sure that you're not taking drugs that will interact with one another.

"If you do fill your prescriptions at more than one place, make sure each pharmacist knows the full list of drugs you're taking so they can spot any potential issues," said Ruhle.

Another smart strategy can be to buy in bulk. For example, if you get 90 days' worth of medication instead of 30 days, you might be eligible for a better deal.

Ruhle also said consumers should not overlook their FSAs. "A flexible savings account is the pre-tax savings account your company will sponsor for health related spending," she said. "Those accounts have a use-it-or-lose-it policy and prescriptions are an easy way to spend those dollars."

For more smart financial tips visit On The Money TODAY with Stephanie Ruhle.