Whether you have a chronic condition or a short-term illness, doctors often turn first to prescribing medication. This could be an antibiotic, an anti-inflammatory, a blood thinner, or any of the myriad other types of drugs.

But many medications come with a hefty price tag. So much so that nearly 1 in 4 Americans find it difficult to afford their prescriptions, according to one survey.

As a result, many people must make a tough decision: Do I fill a prescription, or do I skip the medication and risk becoming sicker?

Although some prescription medications are anything but cheap, you can lower your out-of-pocket costs and get the care you need — and deserve.

Here’s a look at nine practical ways to save money on prescription medications.

Just because your doctor writes a prescription for a brand-name drug doesn’t mean you have to pay big bucks for the medication.

Many brand drugs also have generic versions available at cheaper prices. These have the same active ingredients and are available in the same quantity.

Ask your doctor to write a prescription for the generic version of a medication instead. You can also ask your pharmacist about generic alternatives to a brand medication.

It’s possible you’ll need to take a specific medication for at least 3 months. If this is the case, instead of getting a prescription for a 30-day supply, ask your doctor to write a prescription for a 90-day supply.

You’ll usually save money by purchasing the medication in larger quantities. Plus, you won’t have to refill the prescription as often, which can save money on copays.

Some pharmacies have a 30-day supply of certain generic medications for just $4 dollars, and a 90-day supply for $10.

Don’t assume that all pharmacies charge the same amount for medication. Before you fill a prescription, call different pharmacies and compare prices to save money.

You can call big box retailers and grocery stores like Target, Walmart, and Costco, as well as independent pharmacies.

While you’re comparing prices, you can also search online for discount coupons and instant savings.

Type in the name of the prescription, set your location, and you’ll see prices that nearby pharmacies charge for the medication. The company even gives a free discount prescription card.

You can receive it through text or email, or print the card. This isn’t insurance, but rather a drug savings program.

Along with using a prescription discount program, you may qualify for prescription drug assistance that your state or local government offers.

Program requirements vary, and some impose income restrictions. To learn more about programs, contact the State Pharmaceutical Assistance Program or Partnership for Prescription Assistance.

Keep in mind, too, that some stores offer their own free prescription drug programs. You may be eligible to receive free antibiotics or free medications for high blood pressure and diabetes. Contact your local pharmacy for more information.

If you’re eligible for Medicare, consider getting a prescription drug plan to reduce your out-of-pocket expenses for medication. As long as you’re enrolled in either Medicare Part A or Part B (or both), you can purchase a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan as a stand-alone policy.

You can also sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan that includes Part D benefits. Medicare Advantage is original Medicare offered through private insurance companies. You can sign up for a Medicare Part D plan during Medicare open enrollment from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 of each year.

Some items are cheaper when you purchase them online. This can also apply to medications.

Mail order pharmacies have less overhead compared to a local pharmacy. Because of this, they can afford to sell medications at a cheaper price.

Contact your health insurance provider to see if they have any relationships or partnerships with a mail order pharmacy. If so, ask your doctor to send your prescription to the mail order company. They can then deliver your prescriptions to your front door.

If your doctor recommends an expensive medication, ask for free samples. You can try the drug to ensure you don’t have any adverse side effects before filling the prescription.

If your health insurance includes prescription drug coverage, don’t assume that using your insurance is cheaper.

Sometimes, the cost of buying a certain drug out-of-pocket is cheaper than your prescription copay. Before using your insurance to pay for medication, inquire about the cost without insurance.

Your insurance copay may be $10, yet the medication only costs $5 without insurance.

Prescription medications can be costly depending on the type of drug and how often you need to refill a prescription. But while drug costs can bust your budget, these strategies can soften the blow to your pocket. This can allow you to get the medications you need to feel better sooner.