organizing pillsShare on Pinterest
Willie B. Thomas/Getty Images

Diabetes is an expensive condition to manage. In 2017, 1 out of every 7 dollars spent on healthcare in America was spent on diabetic care.

The American Diabetes Association reports that 45 percent of spending was on medications and supplies. Fortunately, there are programs to help you afford your diabetes medications, devices, and supplies.

Programs are offered by pharmaceutical companies, pharmacies, the federal government, and nonprofit associations. If you’re overwhelmed by the cost of managing your diabetes, read on to find 16 tips for lowering your costs.

If your main concern is affording your insulin, you can check out this guide dedicated exclusively to insulin.

There are multiple programs available to help you get the things you need to manage your diabetes. From insulin to glucose monitors, you might be able to find what you need for free or at a low cost.

1. Pharmaceutical assistance programs

Pharmaceutical assistance programs are programs offered by specific companies to help patients afford their medications. Most companies that make diabetes medications or insulin offer their own programs.

These programs are designed for people without insurance coverage and with limited incomes. You’ll need to meet those requirements to apply. Some programs allow Medicare Part D enrollees to apply.

  • Pfizer RxPathways Program. This program offers coverage for diabetes medications manufactured by Pfizer.
  • Novartis Patient Assistance Foundation. You can get help affording your Novartis medications through this foundation.
  • Merck Patient Assistance Program. Merck’s program can help you get free or low-cost Merck medications.
  • GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Assistance Program. GKS makes a few different diabetes medications that you can get for a lower cost through this program.
  • Lilly Cares Foundation Patient Assistance Program. You can get free Eli Lilly insulin through this program.
  • Norvo Nordisk Diabetes Patient Assistance Program. You can get free or discounted Norvo Nordisk insulin through this program.
  • Sanofi Patient Assistance Program. If you take Sanofi insulin, this program can help you get it for free.

2. Drug and coupon cards

You can face high copayment or coinsurance costs even when your insurance does cover your medication. That’s why manufacturers also offer assistance to people with insurance.

Coupon cards can lower your copayments so you’ll have less to pay when you pick up your prescriptions. Coupon cards are available from all major manufacturers.

You can find information about coupon cards by following the links above to each company’s patient assistance program.

3. Device assistance programs

There are also programs available when you need assistance getting devices like glucose monitors or supplies like testing strips.

  • Free Abbott glucose monitors. Abbott manufactures the Freestyle line of glucose monitors. You can use their program to get a free monitor as well as discounts on test strips.
  • Medtronic Patient Assistance. If you use an insulin pump from Medtronic you might be able to get it at a lower cost through this program.
  • The CR3 Diabetes Association. This program helps low-income people get the monitors, testing strips, and insulin pumps they need.
  • Benefits Checkup. This service from the National Council on Aging can help seniors get matched with every program and money-saving benefit they qualify for, including programs that offer free or low-cost supplies.

Coupon websites are a great way to search for the best deal on your diabetes medication. The sites are free to join and can save you a lot of money.

Coupon sites work in two ways. You can use the sites to search for your prescriptions. The sites will show you the lowest available price and give you a coupon you can bring to the pharmacy to get the deal.

You can also sign up for free discount cards that you can bring with you every time you go to the pharmacy. Popular coupon sites include:

4. Nonprofit assistance programs

There are multiple nonprofit programs that you can use to find low-cost diabetes medications and supplies. These programs will ask you for information about where you live, what your income is, what supplies you need, and what prescriptions you take.

They’ll then match you with ways to get you what you need for free or at a reduced cost. Programs include:

  • Medicine Assistance Tool (MAT). MAT can match you with programs to help you afford any prescriptions you take. You’ll enter information about your prescription, income, and insurance to get matched.
  • NeedyMeds. NeedyMeds maintains a large database of information and helpful resources for people with diabetes and other conditions. Their resources can help you find supplies, prescriptions, and care.
  • RxAssist. You can use RxAssist to search for any prescription you take and get matched with ways to receive it for free or at a low cost
  • RxHope. You can apply for programs directly from the RxHope website. You’ll search for each prescription you take and then see matching programs to get it for free or at a low cost.
  • This program is specifically for finding low-cost insulin. It can match you with resources to help you pay for your insulin and can help you get emergency insulin.

5. Mail-order pharmacies

Mail-order pharmacies can help you save money. You might be able to get a great deal by filling your prescriptions this way, especially if you order more than one month at a time.

If you use insurance, your copays might be lower using a mail-order pharmacy. Plus, you’ll get the convenience of having your prescriptions delivered to your door.

6. Pharmacy loyalty programs

Many pharmacies have loyalty programs you can use to save money. These programs are generally free to join. You might get coupons that are only offered to loyalty program members, or be able to earn discounts with frequent purchases.

7. Government assistance

Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs are state programs that help people with limited incomes afford their prescriptions. Not all states offer Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs, and the eligibility requirements are different in each state that does.

You can use the Medicare website to check for a program in your state.

8. Community health centers

Community health centers provide care for people with limited incomes. Community health centers allow you to get the care you can afford with sliding scale payment options.

Many community health centers have pharmacies or medications on hand to help you get low-cost or free prescriptions. They might also be able to connect you with other community and local resources to help you afford to manage your diabetes.

This interactive map can help you find a local center.

Sometimes these options aren’t enough to help you afford your diabetes medication. You won’t always qualify for every program, and even with assistance, costs can still add up.

The suggestions below can help you lower your costs and get the medications you need.

9. Talk with a diabetes care and education specialist for help

A diabetes care and education specialist is a professional who can help you manage your care. They might be able to help you find low-cost care and prescription assistance in your area.

They can also help you better manage your diabetes. They teach you lifestyle changes that could reduce the number of medications you need. This could lead to you needing to spend a lot less to manage your diabetes.

You can find an educator in your area using this interactive map.

10. Consider a generic drug

Generics are often a much cheaper option. The cash price for generics can be hundreds of dollars less than the name brand. If you use insurance, your copay might be much lower with a generic drug.

You can ask your medical provider about generics if you’re currently taking any name brand prescriptions. In most cases, switching to the generic is safe and just as effective.

11. Use a combination medication rather than two separate meds

A combination medication is just what it sounds like: a combination of two medications in one. This type of medication serves two purposes, so instead of needing two different prescriptions, you’d only have one.

This can significantly lower your costs. Just like switching to a generic, you can’t make this decision yourself. Talk to a medical professional about your prescriptions and see if there are any options for a combination medication.

12. See if you can get a 90-day supply of medication

Ninety-day supplies are often cheaper than the standard 30-day supplies. Although not all prescriptions are available in 90-day supplies, many are.

You can ask a healthcare professional to write your prescriptions for 90 days instead of 30. You can get a 90-day supply from a mail-order pharmacy or a traditional pharmacy.

13. See if you can get samples from your doctor

Doctors sometimes have samples of prescriptions. This won’t cover you in the long term, but it can help you get the medication you need quickly.

Samples can be a good way to get what you need while you wait for approval from one of the programs discussed earlier in this list.

14. Check out Extra Help

If you have Medicare and are enrolled in a Medicare Part D plan, you might be able to get additional help paying for your prescriptions.

Medicare Extra Help is a program that reduces costs for low-income Medicare enrollees. You can apply for the program through the Social Security Administration website.

15. Check your insurance company formulary

A formulary is a list of medications that an insurance company will cover. It’s always a good idea to check the medications you take against the formulary for your insurance company.

If any prescriptions you have aren’t on the formulary, talk to a healthcare professional. They might be able to switch you to medications that are on the formulary.

16. Reach out for help

Managing diabetes can be stressful and expensive. It is a challenge to juggle. You don’t have to do it alone. If you’re struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out to a healthcare professional or organization for help.

When to consider asking for help

  • when you can’t afford your medications
  • when you’ve been rationing your medication or skipping doses
  • when you’ve been having very high blood glucose readings
  • when you’re having symptoms of uncontrolled diabetes
Was this helpful?

The cost of managing diabetes can add up. Medications, devices, and supplies make up a large portion of those costs. There are many programs available to help people afford the things they need.

So, if you’ve been struggling to cover the cost of your diabetes care, you have options. You can apply for programs to reduce your costs or talk with a medical professional about lower-cost medication options.