We all know it is wise to shop around for the best price when purchasing prescription drugs, but a Consumer Reports (CR) investigation shows just how widely prices can vary, even in the same zip code.
In a secret shopper investigation, CR researchers called more than 150 pharmacies in six regions of the country to compare the prices of five commonly prescribed drugs – generic Actos (diabetes), Celebrex (pain), Cymbalta (depression), Lipitor (high cholesterol) and Plavix (blood thinner). The results were stunning, ranging from a price for the group of $100 to nearing $1,000!
The High Costs of Prescription Drugs & Medications
Walgreens, Kmart, and CVS had some of the highest prices. Best among the retailers was $95 for online HealthWarehouse.com and Costco offered competitive prices with the entire basket of drugs running $117.
Even in the same zip code, prices can vary dramatically. The drug Cymbalta cost $24 at an independent pharmacy and $220 at a retail chain drug store, ten times the difference for the exact same drug. Generic Actos costs ranged from $10 to $493.
Prices for prescription drugs vary due to different contracts struck by Big Pharma with various retailers and insurance companies.
It pays to ask for the “lowest possible price” and not assume that is being offered to you. In fact, some states allow a so-called “gag clause” that discourages pharmacists from informing consumers how to get the most for their money. Asking out loud may relieve the pharmacist of that restriction.
Also, ask for in-store discounts that some insurance plans and even Medicare may not allow. It may ultimately be cheaper not to use your insurance in that case.