January 15, 2010 – Noticing a proliferation of complaints about prescription drug prices, the AJC spoke with experts about the economics of prescription shopping.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution conducted an informal survey of prices for five frequently-prescribed drugs and found that some drugs cost twice as much at the metro-Atlanta pharamcies that charge the most. Lucy Soto, writing for the paper, concludes that comparing prices makes sense for insured and uninsured alike, as a generic drug can cost less than the insurance co-pay for a comparable branded drug.
Calls to a handful of randomly selected pharmacies produced evidence that prices vary widely. On the one hand, the generic drug Simvastatin, commonly prescribed to fight high clesterol, cost double the price at Wal-Mar, when compared to CVS and Walgreens and almost four times as much as at Costco. For the generic drug Citalopram or the antibiotic Amoxicillin, however, Wal-Mart was the place to go, thanks to their $4 plan.
Ms. Soto asked the $370 billion* question: “Why is it such a pricing jungle out there?” and got this response from Devon Herrick, who works with the National Center for Policy Analysis, “It varies because it can… because people don’t consider prescription drug purchases in the same light as other purchases, and when the doctor is the one prescribing, it even removes more discretion.”
According to the experts, even with all the consumer websites out there, patients need to do their own legwork and talk with their doctors about over-the-counter alternatives or generics and about splitting pills. As for people with good insurance and low co-pays, or who believe they don’t have to care about prescription prices, the author points out that some plans are moving to sliding percentage co-pays, tiered drug reimbursement, and higher deductibles.
“If not one cares, that’s just going to drive the price up, Herrick said, “If we all do that, it gets passed on to the cost of employer plans and passed on to workers through reduced wages.”
Read the full article here: