Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Three Proven Ways to Save Money on Your Electric Bill


Summer utility bills can sting. Between using extra water to keep your yard green and running the air conditioner to stay cool, it can feel like you have to choose between saving money and enjoying your summer. That doesn’t have to be true – particularly when it comes to your electric bill!

Here are three proven ways to save money on your electric bill this month:

1. Avoid “vampires”
As explained by the U.S. Department of Energy, most homes have multiple TVs and computers, which are all connected to various devices, such as DVD players, game consoles, external monitors, and printers. Believe it or not, the energy consumed by all these gadgets in our homes can add up to nearly 10 percent of a household's monthly electric bill! Many people forget to turn off their devices when they aren't using them, and many electronics continue to draw power even after they've been turned off, wasting energy in the form of "vampire loads."

To avoid wasting energy on devices that you aren’t actively using, try investing in a few advanced power strips. There are many different products on the market – some even have timers or activity sensors. Check out this infographic to learn more.

2. Replace old thermostats
If you aren’t using a programmable thermostat, switching to one may make a demonstrable difference in your electric bill. We all know that adjusting your thermostat just a few degrees can improve your energy use. Programmable thermostats allow you to make those slight adjustments automatically, based on your household needs, to ensure you save money.

The experts at CNET.com recommend taking things a step further with a smart thermostat, so that you can control your heating and cooling from your phone or other device. Click here to read their smart thermostat reviews for 2017.

3. Trash old light bulbs
Overwhelmed when you visit the light bulb aisle at your local home improvement store? We are too! But the good news is that all of those new light bulb options exist to help save you money. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, an average household dedicates about five percent of its energy budget to lighting. Switching to energy-efficient lighting is one of the fastest ways to cut your energy bills. By replacing your home's five most frequently used light fixtures or bulbs with models that have earned the ENERGY STAR, you can save $75 each year.

After you are done lowering your energy bill, don’t forget that you can lower your pharmacy bill as well. Regardless of your insurance situation, the Free FamilyWize Prescription Discount Card can help you to spend less money on your family’s prescription drugs. Download the free app today.

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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Ask an Expert: Which Drugs May Be Dangerous for Heart Health?


This post is part of our “Ask an Expert” blog series. In this post, Ken Majkowski, Pharm.D and Chief Pharmacy Officer at FamilyWize, identifies several medications that should be used with care by patients with heart failure. Ken brings more than 40 years of healthcare experience to the FamilyWize team, including 14 years of clinical pharmacy experience in retail, hospital and home care. Read his full bio, here.

In the U.S., more than 1 in 3 adults have cardiovascular diseases. On average, heart failure patients take 6.8 prescription medications per day, resulting in 10.1 doses a day. This estimate does not include over-the-counter medications or alternative treatments.

It is important to note, however, that not all medications are safe for those with cardiovascular diseases. Some commonly used drugs have specifically been identified as potentially dangerous for those with an existing heart condition.

Anesthesia Medications
We know that most anesthetics interfere with cardiovascular performance. While generally very safe for the average person, anesthesia for surgical procedures can be dangerous for patients with heart failure. A recent study observed a 63 percent increased risk of operative mortality and a 51 percent greater risk of being readmitted to the hospital among patients with heart failure compared with patients without heart failure or coronary artery disease. It is critical for all patients to have a comprehensive discussion about their health with their anesthesiologist before going under anesthesia, no matter how routine the procedure.

Pain Medications
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), naproxen (Aleve, Naproxen), and cyclogenase-2 inhibitors (celecoxib, Celebrex) are used very widely in the United States and generally considered to be very safe. Unfortunately, they are less safe for people who already have cardiovascular disease.

NSAIDs can cause the body to retain sodium. Excess sodium causes the body to retain more fluid and forces your heart to work harder. This can be a major problem for people with heart failure, making it critical for heart patients to speak with a doctor before taking NSAIDs for any length of time. Additionally, chronic or heavy use of NSAIDs can also cause chronic kidney disease, another reason to monitor their use.

Diabetes Medications
There are a handful of medications for the treatment of diabetes that should either be avoided or carefully monitored by anyone with concern for their heart health. Specifically, Avandia (rosiglitazone) and Actos (pioglitazone) have both been identified by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as potentially increasing the risk of heart failure, and their use is limited to people whose diabetes is not well controlled by other medications. Both drugs can cause fluid retention, similar to NSAIDs, which causes stress on the heart.

If you have a cardiovascular disease, please be sure to discuss each and every medication you use with your doctor, including over-the-counter medications or alternative medications. These conversations are important and can help to keep you safe.

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

How To Know If A Prescription Discount Card is Right for You



Have you read about prescription discount programs and wondered if they applied to you? Do you have insurance but are frustrated with the amount of money that you are spending at the pharmacy?

Our infographic can help you! Check it out below to understand if the Free FamilyWize Prescription Discount Card can help you to save money on your prescription medication.


Do you have friends or family who could also benefit from the Free FamilyWize Prescription Discount Card? Send them to FamilyWize.org to sign up now!



Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Three Ways to Soothe Away Stress




“I love being stressed out!” said no one, ever.
Whether you’re worried about a big meeting or being able to get prescription savings on your medications, stress is ever present in our lives; but it doesn’t have to run our lives. Here are three actionable ways to soothe away your stress so you can relax.

STOP
In a stressful moment, try using the STOP method recommended by Diana Winston, director of Mindfulness Education at UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center and co-author of Fully Present: The Science, Art and Practice of Mindfulness. STOP stands for Slow into the moment, Take a breath, and Observe what’s happening before you proceed. Our bodies need to react to stress for survival. If a hungry tiger decides to chase you, you want your body to move quickly, not sit down and meditate. The problem arises when your body can’t tell the difference between a hungry tiger and a challenging meeting at work. The STOP method provides you with a way to slow down, mindfully identify what is happening, and then to proceed with a little more clarity and calmness.

Reframe the Situation
The experts at Psychology Today recommend using reframing as a technique to remove negativity from challenging situations. It is natural to focus on the most challenging or frustrating aspect of a situation, even though that is not the whole picture. Yes, it is a bummer that John quit and now your team will be one person short. But how else can you think about the situation? Once John leaves, maybe that gives you the opportunity to promote someone else who really deserves it. Or maybe you’ll have the opportunity to hire someone who speaks Spanish or who has some other useful skill to improve your team overall. By focusing on the positive opportunities and not just the negative challenges, you can reframe your thoughts about the situation and feel less stress.

Practice Gratitude
Like reframing, regularly practicing gratitude teaches your brain to focus on positive, calmer thoughts, rather than playing negative thoughts on repeat. In her article, “Overcome Stress by Saying Thanks,” Susanna M. Halonen recommends asking yourself a series of questions to gain perspective and cultivate gratitude in a stressful situation:
      What lessons is this experience teaching me?
      Can I find ways to be thankful for what’s happening to me now even though I was not thankful at the time it started happening?
      What ability is the experience drawing out of me that is surprising me?
View her full article here to see the rest of the list.

So the next time stress threatens your sunny day, STOP, reframe it, and be thankful.

How do you keep your stress in check? Share your tips on our Facebook page and help others soothe their stress. For more advice for living a healthier lifestyle, follow the FamilyWize blog; and visit our website to download the best discount Rx card for free.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Surprising Thing You Should Always Comparison Shop For



We all know that we should comparison shop for things like flights, cars, and even baby diapers. But there is one thing that we should ALWAYS comparison shop for…even though most people never do.

Prescription medications.

Prescription Drugs Are Expensive
Drug prices rose an average of nearly ten percent over the 12-month period ending in May 2016 – a time when the overall inflation rate was just one percent in the U.S.

A report from data firm IMS Health estimates patients, insurers, government programs, and other payers spent a combined $309.5 billion in 2015 on prescriptions. The IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics predicts spending will reach $370 billion to $400 billion in 2020.

There is a misconception among many consumers that drug prices “are what they are” and there is little consumers can do to combat them. That isn’t necessarily true. From comparing prices at different pharmacies to using a free prescription savings card program, there are definitely effective ways to lower your family’s prescription drug costs.

How to Comparison Shop for Prescription Drugs
It used to be that comparison shopping for prescription medications required a lot of leg work – identifying local pharmacies and then making multiple phone calls to inquire about the prices of the drugs you need. The FamilyWize website takes away all of that hassle.

Earlier this year, FamilyWize launched its Medicine Cabinet, which allows you to store all of your family’s prescription information in one secure location, so that you can use that data to comparison shop for the lowest available prices. You can use this feature in conjunction with our medication discount card. Here’s how the FamilyWize Medicine Cabinet works:

      Create a personal profile to save and track your family’s prescription drug price searches.
      Search and compare prescription drug prices within a designated zip code.
      Bundle prescriptions by pharmacy to see total cumulative costs prior to visiting the pharmacy.
      Compare pricing between generic and name brand prescriptions.
      Toggle search results between pharmacy locations and drug cost breakdowns to make informed decisions for your family.
      Instantly download the FamilyWize card or app.

Want to give it a try? Visit FamilyWize.org and start a new search or create your own account. Have questions about how to use the Medicine Cabinet or thoughts on how we can improve it? Please email us at support@familywize.org. We love to hear from you!

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Ask an Expert: Patient Rights at the Pharmacy Counter


This post is part of our “Ask an Expert” blog series. In this post, Ken Majkowski, Pharm.D and Chief Pharmacy Officer at FamilyWize, addresses the rights all patients have when they visit the pharmacy. Ken brings more than 40 years of healthcare experience to the FamilyWize team, including 14 years of clinical pharmacy experience in retail, hospital, and home care. Read his full bio, here.

There are many articles and pamphlets available that describe what your rights are as a patient at a doctor’s office. But are you aware of your rights at your local pharmacy?

Specifically, there are five patient rights that I encourage everyone to be aware of before they fill a prescription for any member of their family.

Patient Rights at the Pharmacy

1. Right to choose your pharmacy
First and foremost, you have the right to choose which pharmacy you go to for your prescription needs. Too many patients default to the pharmacy closest to their home or doctor’s office, without researching the prices of their medications or considering other variables like added services (e.g. delivery options or in-store clinics). You have the right to choose the pharmacy that will best serve your family’s needs.

2. Right to access a pharmacist for questions and counseling
You have the right to ask to speak with the pharmacist. Sometimes the person who hands you your prescription is a pharmacy technician, not a licensed pharmacist. He or she should offer you access to the on-duty pharmacist if you have any questions about your prescription, but even if they do not, you always have the right to ask. You are not “bothering” the pharmacist and the pharmacy technician will not be insulted.

3. Right to privacy of both conversation and records
Thanks to HIPAA, patient privacy has become the norm. Patients should always expect their personal information and medical records to be kept strictly confidential. But if a pharmacist or pharmacy technician initiates a conversation with you about your medication, you always have the right to request a more private location. Today, most pharmacies have separate counters, privacy rooms, or partitioned areas available for that purpose.

4. Right to choose your method of payment
Did you know that you don’t have to use your health insurance to purchase a prescription, even if you have coverage? At the pharmacy counter, you always have the right to choose if you would like to apply your insurance benefits or pay cash. Depending on your coverage, the pharmacist may be able to help you understand what your most cost-effective option might be. For example, some patients find that they save more money by paying cash and utilizing the free Rx prescription discount card from FamilyWize than by using other coverage or discount options, especially for patients with a High Deductible Health Plan.

5. Right to file a grievance
If you are unhappy with the service you have received for any reason, you have the right to file a grievance or complaint. To find your pharmacy’s protocols, please ask at your pharmacy or search your pharmacy’s website for additional details.

Knowing your patient rights and utilizing them will enable you to become a better-informed participant in your own healthcare and wellbeing. And the next time you refill your prescription at the pharmacy, remember to use your free pharmacy discount card from FamilyWize.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Opioid Epidemic: Three Things Families Should Know


The New York Times recently reported that drug overdose deaths in 2016 most likely exceeded 59,000, the largest annual jump ever recorded in the United States. The article attributes this terrifying statistic to an escalating public health crisis: opioid addiction, now made more deadly by an influx of fentanyl and similar drugs. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50.

How can you keep your loved ones safe? Here are three facts about the opioid crisis that families need to know:

1. In many cases, illegal heroin and fentanyl use begins with the abuse of legally prescribed painkillers.  As described in The Economist, opioids can be divided into three broad groups. First, are legitimate painkillers, such as OxyContin, which is FDA-approved and even eligible for prescription savings. Heavily prescribed since the 1990s, some of these pills were abused by people who defeated their slow-release mechanisms by crushing and then snorting or injecting them. The second group consists of powerful synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl and carfentanil. These have legitimate medical uses, but are often manufactured illegally and smuggled into America. The third opioid is heroin, derived from opium poppies, almost all of it illegally.

Too often, abuse begins innocently enough – a middle-aged woman with chronic back pain begins regularly using legally prescribed opioid pain medication. She may find that over time, she needs more and more to feel better. Then when her prescription runs out, she discovers that she can’t get through the day without it and turns to illegal options, like fentanyl or heroin.

Sadly, it is just as likely that her teenage son may get his hands on her prescribed medication, taking “just a few pills for a party.” His addiction will then often follow the same path, until his life is consumed by his need for the drugs.

2. The opioid epidemic is not an urban problem or a “bad people” problem. The Economist also reports that deaths are highest in the Midwest and Northeast, among middle-aged men, and among Caucasians. Some of the worst-affected counties are rural. As Bruce Y. Lee, a Forbes.com contributor put it, “Science will help everyone understand that opioid addiction is not ‘bad people doing bad things.’... It's not as if more and more people around the country since the '90s have decided to turn bad. The opioid epidemic is a systems problem.” Because the danger is the drug itself and how it affects the brain, it is critical for all families to work to prevent drug addiction.

3. If you face chronic pain, there are alternatives to opioids. Before you accept a prescription for any pain medication, ask about what kind it is and what your options are. Short-term use of opioids can be safe, but if you have school-age children in the house or expect to be taking your medication for an extended period of time, it is worth asking about addiction risk and other alternatives.

Unfortunately, sometimes opioid alternatives are not covered by some health insurances. That is where FamilyWize can help. Our Free Rx Prescription Discount Card enables everyone, both insured and uninsured, to save on their prescription medications, with average savings of around 40 percent. Learn more at FamilyWize.org.

To learn more about the opioid epidemic, please visit the CDC website – Understanding the Epidemic.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Walking is Free, Easy and Effective




The more things change, the more things stay the same. Although you’re taking your medications daily (and using the best Rx discount card for additional savings), exercise is important, too. While there will always be a trendy new workout to try, good-old walking will always be a safe, effective standby exercise for virtually every body type in every stage of life.

Need to be reminded why walking is so great for you?
Here are seven benefits of walking for exercise:

1.     Walking can be a form of meditation – Studies have found that a 20-minute walk can calm your overactive brain and restore your attention.
2.     Walking can protect your memory – Researchers following up on 300 older adults after 13 years found that those who had walked six to nine miles a week lowered their risk of memory problems by 50 percent.
3.     Walking is also good for brain function in general – Researchers found that adults who walked for 40 minutes three times a week slowed age-related declines in brain function and improved their performance on cognitive tasks.
4.     Walking reduces your odds of developing chronic health conditions – Studies show that regular walks of approximately 30 minutes decrease your risk of developing osteoporosis, breast and colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and more.
5.     Walking keeps your weight in check – Regular walks are a simple way to maintain a healthy weight and avoid the health risks associated with obesity.
6.     Walking keeps your doctor happy – Regular walking improves your most basic health statistics, including your blood pressure, blood sugar, and blood lipid profile.
7.     Walking is good for your blood sugar levels – The Whitaker Wellness Institute encourages its patients to take a 10-minute walk after meals to help clear glucose out of the bloodstream.

And best of all, walking is FREE! No gym memberships or fancy equipment required. Taking a short walk every day (provided your doctor hasn’t advised against it) is a great way to begin an exercise habit. Interested in giving it a try? Start here for some easy guidelines from the Mayo Clinic.

Have a great resource for fitness walking? Share it on our Facebook page! And for the best prescription savings card, turn to FamilyWize.

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      AARP – Walk This Way

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Family Budgets: There’s an App for That




Managing the family budget used to require a lot of paper – specifically bills, receipts, and bank statements. Today, just like our free pharmacy discount card, these things can be accessed in just a few clicks on your phone!

If you type “budget” into an app store, you will likely find more than 150 different options to consider. Overwhelming! To save you time, we have compiled a short list of three popular, well-reviewed, and frequently updated mobile budget applications for you to consider.

Mint.com and the free Mint app from Intuit, Inc (the makers of QuickBooks and TurboTax) is considered by many to be the best all-around budgeting tool available today. The beauty of this option is that it is a “one stop shop” – you can connect all of your accounts (bank, credit cards, etc.), manage all of your bill paying, and track all of your spending to a budget that you set yourself, all in one interface. Plan to spend a little time getting set up and then prepare to be held accountable!

YNAB was designed to do one thing and do it well – help you to get out of debt and stop living paycheck to paycheck. The YNAB tool focuses on four rules to help you get your life in order: Give every dollar a job, plan for infrequent expenses, roll with the punches if you overspend, and learn how to live on last month's income. If you are struggling to make meaningful progress on your loan payments or if you feel your family sliding deeper and deeper into debt, the YNAB free trial is worth a try. With any luck, you’ll not only create a budget that works for your family, but you’ll also become more financially savvy for the future.

Do you know how much money you spent yesterday? How about last week? If expense tracking isn’t your strength, the free Wally app is here to make it much easier. Wally creators say their goal is to “give you a 360 view on your money; what comes in, what goes out, what you have saved, what you have budgeted.” Wally reviewers love the fact that users can track expenses by snapping photos of their receipts, making daily expense logging much faster and easier than with other budgeting tools.

Don’t Forget – FamilyWize Has an App Too!
Are you regularly spending a lot of money on prescription medications? Regardless of your insurance situation, the Free Prescription Discount Card from FamilyWize can help you to spend less money on your family’s prescription drugs. Download the free app today.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Ask an Expert: Surprising Side Effects from Common Medications



This post is part of our “Ask an Expert” blog series. In this post, Ken Majkowski, Pharm.D and Chief Pharmacy Officer at FamilyWize, addresses some surprising side effects that can occur with commonly used medications. Ken brings more than 40 years of healthcare experience to the FamilyWize team, including 14 years of clinical pharmacy experience in retail, hospital, and home care. Read his full bio, here.

While you might know that you can get discounted prices on your prescriptions through the FamilyWize free Rx prescription discount card, it’s important to think about  the side effects of the medicines you take. When most people think of the potential side effects of their prescription drugs, they tend to think of warnings to not operate heavy machinery (due to drowsiness) or to not take medication on an empty stomach (to avoid nausea). But, did you know that some commonly prescribed medications might also affect your hearing or eyesight?

Medications That May Affect Your Hearing
According to information from Consumer Reports, some 500,000 Americans face drug-related hearing loss each year. Several commonly used over-the-counter pain relievers, including aspirin, ibuprofen (e.g. Advil and Motrin), and naproxen (e.g. Aleve and Naprosyn) have been connected with temporary tinnitus and hearing loss.
Tinnitus is a ringing, buzzing, or roaring in the ear when no noise is present. The Mayo Clinic encourages anyone who develops tinnitus, or any disruption to his or her hearing, to visit a doctor – particularly if it develops suddenly or after a respiratory infection.

Certain antibiotics – including amikacin, kanamycin, neomycin, streptomycin, tobramycin – are connected with permanent hearing loss. It is important to note that these antibiotics are given either in the muscle (IM) or in the vein (IV) for very serious infections, and they are often lifesaving. If you notice any change in your senses while taking an antibiotic, speak to your doctor immediately. He or she may be able to change the dose to correct the problem or change medications to protect you from additional damage.

Medications That May Affect Your Vision
Medications can cause a variety of vision issues, from temporary blurred vision or double vision, to larger issues like cataracts or permanent optic nerve damage. Alpha-blockers (for high blood pressure or enlarged prostate), certain antibiotics, popular erectile dysfunction drugs, and some osteoporosis drugs have been known to cause blurred vision or double vision. Some alpha-blockers may also affect cataract surgery.

More seriously, corticosteroids, like prednisone, Medrol, and triamcinolone, which are used for allergies, autoimmune disorders, and a variety of other conditions – irrespective of how they are administered – can lead to cataracts. Even long-term use of inhaled and intranasal steroids can precipitate cataracts. Corticosteroids are often used for life-threatening diseases, so tell your doctor if you notice a change in vision.


If you notice any side effects related to your vision, or if you have a family history of or existing cataracts, speak to your pharmacist or doctor. Cataracts have a high treatment success rate (99.9 percent) and are treated with an outpatient procedure that is covered by Medicare and commercial insurance.

Side effects related to vision and hearing occur more rarely than drowsiness or stomach upset, but they still happen and must be quickly addressed.

Interested in more information? Check out the Food & Drug Administration’s consumer webpage for Learning about Side Effects. And to save money on your prescriptions, download the free prescription discount card from FamilyWize.

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Photosensitivity: What it is and How to Stay Safe


At the end of spring, when warm weather looks like it is finally here to stay, store shelves are lined with an overwhelming selection of sunscreens. Besides protecting your family from sunburn, premature aging, and (most importantly) skin cancer, you may have a fourth reason for purchasing plenty of sunscreen this summer –photosensitivity.  

What is Photosensitivity?
Photosensitivity (or sun sensitivity) is when sun exposure combines with certain medications to cause painful skin inflammation, similar to sunburn. The rash, while very uncomfortable, typically clears up fairly quickly once the medication is discontinued and cleared from the body. This can occur regardless of age or how long you have been taking a medication and is linked to a variety of different drugs.

Which Medications Cause Photosensitivity?
Our prescription savings card can make your medicines cheaper, but it’s important to be aware of their side effects. The following medications are more likely to cause sun sensitivity than other drugs:
      Acne treatments, particularly prescription retinoids, but also over-the-counter products containing salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, can cause photosensitivity.
      Antibiotics, particularly the commonly prescribed Bactrim or sulfamethoxozole trimethoprim, can cause photosensitivity.
      Allergy medications, specifically oral antihistamines, can affect the body’s ability to sweat, which can lead to a sun/heat-induced skin reaction.
      Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), both prescribed and over-the-counter, can cause differing levels of photosensitivity.
      Vitamins and herbs, specifically St. John’s Wort and Niacin, have been linked to photosensitivity.

How Can Photosensitivity Be Prevented or Treated?
First, never skip a dose of a prescribed treatment because you plan to go sunbathing. Instead, speak with your pharmacist about your sun exposure, particularly if you are planning a beach vacation or another similar summer activity while taking a medication or a supplement.

Second, check the drug label. Drugs with serious sun interactions should have those side effects listed on the label. Please take those warnings seriously and use precaution to avoid a reaction.

Third, use common sense and protect your skin. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that you:
      Seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM.
      Avoid tanning and UV tanning beds.
      Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
      Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day.
      Use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher for extended outdoor activity.
      Apply one ounce of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside.
      Reapply sunscreen every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.

As you enjoy the sunshine this summer, take care to protect yourself from overexposure and skin damage. If you are currently taking one of the medications listed above, you have an additional reason to be careful. FamilyWize encourages you to stay safe in the sun this summer! And to save on prescription costs all year round, download our free pharmacy discount card.

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