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Wide Prescription Price Gaps

November 6, 2011 – The Blade of Toledo, Ohio surveyed eight area chain pharmacies to compare pricing for six common prescription medications.

The Blade called around to pharmacies at Kroger, Walmart, Target, Meijer, Giant Eagle, Costco, Rite Aid, and Walgreens, on behalf of customers paying up front with out any insurance, prescription savings plans, or memberships. The survey exposed wide pricing variations, and each pharmacy had instances where it was on the low end of pricing for one of the medications but on the high end for others.

C. Britt Beemer, Chairman and CEO of America’s Research Group, which studies consumer behavior, agrees that “It pays to be a comparison shopper,” suggesting that even those with prescription drug coverage should shop around. Other cost-saving advice included forgoing branded medications for generics if they are effective and obtaining a 90-day supplies of maintenance drugs for chronic conditions.

A spokeswoman for Rite Aid, however, advised shoppers to find the lowest overall price for medications if cost is important and get them all at the same place. “That way, the pharmacist is aware of all the drugs they are taking and can check for interactions.” Of course, Rite Aid was the highest or near that mark for all but one of the six drugs the paper called about.

The author, Julie M. McKinnon, cites a variety of mitigating efforts by pharmacies, including price-matching programs and prescription savings cards and clubs. The Walgreens club, for instance, costs $20 per year and covers more than 8,000 brand-name and generic medications, including more than 400 generics priced at $12 for a 90-day supply.


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