College students already worry about the cost of college — from tuition and books to room and board — but many also forget to take health care, specifically prescriptions, into account.
Students have hectic lives with multiple stressors such as classes, exams and jobs. Combine stress with peak cold and flu seasons, and it creates the perfect recipe for illness. Antibiotics may be needed, and antibiotics may cost money.
There are routine medications to think about, too. Some women, for example, also have to think about birth-control prescriptions and how to obtain and pay for them.
With so many off-campus pharmacies to consider when buying medications, as well as the on-campus UCF Pharmacy, it's easy to be overwhelmed with choices.
UCF Health Services, located across from the Libra dorms, is a go-to for many students seeking health care and prescriptions.
Megan Pabian, coordinator of university relations and public affairs for UCF Health Services, said that they always make sure the patient pays the lowest price. Students may automatically whip out their insurance cards to pay for prescriptions, but sometimes insurance isn't always the best route to go.
"Sometimes the cost of generic drugs is $7 or $10 with most insurances, but if the cash price is only $4, we make the patient aware that they can save some money by taking advantage of the cash price," Pabian said in an email.
Brenda Walker, head pharmacist at Health Services, echoed Pabian, adding that UCF recognizes that students try to be as frugal as possible.
"At the UCF pharmacies, we are extremely sensitive to students' budgetary restraints and work with students one-on-one to find ways of getting them what they need at a price they can afford," Walker said in an email.
Walker added that UCF is able to offer students medication at these prices because, across the board, UCF is not looking to make huge profits, but instead plans to simply break even.
"Vendors, contracts, shortages, volume and so forth are all factors in pricing drugs with any pharmacy. Most pharmacies will competitively price a drug, or offer it for free, just to get customers in the door," Walker said. "Then, they make up for that by pricing other drugs higher."
Health Services accepts more than 300 different prescription-insurance plans and can assist patients in applying for patient-assistance programs through pharmaceutical companies when they need help affording their medications, Pabian said.
For students who choose to use an off-campus pharmacy, there are a plethora of choices in the UCF area, from CVS and Walgreens to the Wal-Mart and Publix pharmacies.
The nearest CVS Pharmacy to campus is located on Alafaya Trail and McCulloch Road. While some prescriptions may be cheaper for students at the UCF pharmacy, CVS is willing to work with customers to help them get reasonable prices, too.
"Something to keep in mind is that we have multiple discount cards for cash-paying customers," said Cathy Habib, a pharmacist at CVS. "We can direct customers to coupons for Lo-Loestrin [for example] and help them to get affordable prices."
If you're closer to a Walgreens, pharmacy technician Jennifer Ruiz said they also offer discount cards.
"Walgreens offers discount cards for customers to save on their prescriptions. Customers can buy a discount card for $20, and it will be good for a whole year," said Ruiz, who works at the Walgreens on Alafaya Trail and Lokanotosa Trail.
Another popular choice with students is the Publix pharmacy. Publix will apply manufacturer and other co-pay discount cards when possible, and it accepts 99 percent of insurance policies, according to its website. It also offers a select list of free medications, including a 14-day supply of general oral antibiotics such as amoxicillin, penicillin and ampicillin.
And like Publix, the Wal-Mart pharmacy also offers an extensive list of $4 refills and generic drugs to treat everything from allergies to blood pressure, as well as oral contraceptives. The full list can be viewed at www.walmart.com/pharmacy.
Whether the first place you turn to for your prescriptions is Health Services or an off-campus pharmacy, there are multiple options out there that strive to put patients first and make necessary medications as affordable as possible.