Navigation Links
Consumer Reports: Some Drug Prices Can Vary By $100 or More for the Same Bottle of Pills

New Survey of More Than 40,000 Readers Gives High Marks To Independent Drugstores For Service, Knowledge, and Speed; Sheds Light On Evolving Consumer-Pharmacist Relationship

YONKERS, N.Y., May 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- For consumers who pay for all or most of their prescription drugs out of pocket, a new price study by Consumer Reports finds that it pays to shop around. Not only do prices vary from store to store for the same drug, but the fluctuations can be dramatic -- sometimes more than $100 for the same prescription -- even with the same chain, depending on whether consumers are filling their prescriptions in, say, Omaha, Nebraska, or Billings, Montana.

Consumer Reports placed more than 500 calls to 163 pharmacies nationwide to gauge price differences among four prescription drugs, three name brand medicines and one generic. For a three-month supply of pills for the urinary incontinence drug Detrol, for example, the price ranged from $365 to $551. CR also found significant price disparities for the two other name-brand drugs it studied: for Plavix (which prevents blood clots), the spread was $382-$541, and for Levoxyl (for treating hypothyroidism), prices ran from $29 to $85. And for the generic alendronate (for osteoporosis), the price range was $124 to $306.

In CR's small scale market-basket study, Costco was the cheapest for the four drugs CR sought quotes for, followed by and Wal-Mart. Walgreens and Rite-Aid were among the priciest for the four drugs.

Besides calling different stores and comparison shopping, other cost-saving tips include:

-- Don't rule out independents: Though they're not the cheapest

overall, many mom-and-pop pharmacies are highly competitive and offer

top notch service.

-- Talk to your employer: Benefits administrators can provide details

about pharmacy benefit managers, also known as PBMs.

-- Buy generics: They can cost 20 to 50 percent less than their brand name


-- See if there's a discount program: Some stores have programs for

those 50 and older; other programs are open to anyone without insurance.


The Consumer Reports National Research Center surveyed 40,133 readers to find out about their experiences at drugstores. One striking finding: readers sought pharmacists' advice about prescription drugs at just 38% of walk in visits during the course of a year. That's down from 50% since CR's last survey in 2002. "That's a pretty significant shift in the consumer-pharmacist relationship," said Tod Marks, senior editor at Consumer Reports.

According to recent estimates, in any given week, one-third of adults take five or more medicines or supplements. And the stakes are high: an estimated 18 million people go to an emergency room every year because they've taken medication incorrectly. "Consumers need to be mindful about the potential for drug interactions that could be dangerous since more people take not only multiple prescription drugs, but also supplements and over-the-counter remedies too. Seeking advice from a pharmacist when filling a prescription is a good way to learn about possible adverse reactions and increase the odds that you're taking the medicine properly," said Marks.

The survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center also found that only 33 percent of prescription drug buys were mostly or entirely covered by insurance coverage. In 2002, the last time CR surveyed readers about their drugstore experiences, 65% of prescription drug buys were covered. "More people are digging deeper and paying a larger share of out-of-pocket costs for prescriptions drugs," said Marks.

Nowadays, of course, "drugstore" is a misnomer and a wide-range of stores now exists. CR surveyed its readers to glean the best advice about the multitude of drugstore options, from the mom-and-pop drugstore to the chains on every corner to mass merchants and finally, mail order resources and pharmacy benefit managers. Here are the choices and how they compare:

Independents: Personal service. Since 1998, when CR first surveyed readers about their drugstore experiences, the independents have always ranked above the other types of stores. Readers gave pharmacists at independent stores high marks for being accessible, approachable, easy to talk to (when sought out), and knowledgeable about prescription and nonprescription products. Independents also stock medical supplies that might be missing from other types of stores and will also customize medicines. Waits were uncommon and many independents offer home delivery. On their web sites, it's usually possible to order refills, shop for medical supplies, track purchases, and do research.

Chains: You might have to wait. Americans still buy most of their medications from conventional chains such as CVS and Walgreens. They tend to take lots of insurance plans, some never close, and the bigger ones seem to sit on every corner. At their web sites, consumers can typically create a secure profile, track prescribing history, print records, e-mail questions to the pharmacist, do research, and sign up for automatic refills. Chains are more likely than other stores to allow people to check prices online. On the down side, more than one in four readers complained about long waits.

Supermarkets: Shop while you wait. About 10,000 supermarkets include a pharmacy, and some are open 24 hours a day. Four highly rated supermarket pharmacies, Publix, Hy-Vee, Hannaford, and Wegmans, were on par with the independents for satisfaction. Supermarket-pharmacy Web sites are usually not as comprehensive as chain drugstore sites (one often can't check prices) but consumers can typically renew, fill, or transfer an existing prescription; research drugs and interactions; and read articles about healthful living and preventing illness.

Mass merchants: Seek special deals. Mass-merchants focus on price. For example, Wal-Mart and Target sell a 30-day supply of more than 300 drugs, primarily generics, for $4 each. And Kmart offers a free GoldK card to people 50 or older with savings of up to 10 percent on every brand name drug or as much as 20 percent on generics. Mass-merchant Web sites tend to be similar to supermarket-pharmacy sites.

Online/mail order: Save on refills. Some online stores have no store counterpart; others do. Online orders can usually be picked up at a store of one's choice or orders can be shipped using standard shipping for little or no extra charge, allowing 5-10 days. Online drugstores will usually let consumers order a 90-day supply of medications for chronic conditions, a service that isn't as easy to find in walk-in stores. One note of caution: consumers who are unfamiliar with an online site should be sure it's licensed in their state. Some sites that are licensed and in good standing with state regulators participate in the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy's Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites program and display a VIPPS seal. CR notes that rogue sites have started to pop up, pretending to be based in Canada but actually operating out of Asia or the Middle East, and the quality of the drugs they're peddling is not guaranteed.

PBMs: A newer way to save. Roughly one-quarter of the 57,000 medicine-buying experiences readers told CR about were with PBMs, or pharmacy benefit managers, including Aetna Prescription, Anthem Rx, CaremarkRx (now called CVS Caremark), Express Scripts, and Medco. These companies, with web sites and phone service but not actual stores, administer prescription plans and cut deals with drugmakers and pharmacies on behalf of large employers, giving them the clout to offer members lower prices. PBM members (consumers don't choose a PBM; their employer does) can buy three-month supplies of medicine for chronic conditions often for the price of one or two co-pays instead of three. Readers were generally quite satisfied with PBMs.

(C) Consumers Union 2008. The material above is intended for legitimate news entities only; it may not be used for commercial or promotional purposes. Consumer Reports(R) is published by Consumers Union, an expert, independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to work for a fair, just, and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect themselves. To achieve this mission, we test, inform, and protect. To maintain our independence and impartiality, Consumers Union accepts no outside advertising, no free test samples, and has no agenda other than the interests of consumers. Consumers Union supports itself through the sale of our information products and services, individual contributions, and a few noncommercial grants.

SOURCE Consumer Reports
Copyright©2008 PR Newswire.
All rights reserved

Related medicine news :

1. State House Passes Bill to Help Consumers Struggling With High Summer Electric Bills
2. Whats Natural When it Comes to Personal Care Products? Consumers Finally Get Help with New Seal and Standard From the Natural Products Association
3. Consumers, Businesses, Unions, and Medical Professionals: Time for Congress to Act on E-Prescribing Legislation
4. Engaging Health Care Consumers Online is Top Priority
5. The Leapfrog Group Releases 2008 Hospital Survey Offering Consumers Greater Assurance of Safety
6. Latest Studies Show Consumer-Directed Telemedicine Solutions Like Consult A Doctor Lower Costs While Providing Greater Access to Affordable, Quality Healthcare.
7. Wal-Mart & Nalgene Removing Toxic Bottles, Place Consumers Concerns First
8. Soy Foods Beat Out Fresh Fish and Meat for Best New Products Tried By Consumers While Demand and Profits Continue to Grow
9. Consumer Watchdog Praises CA HMO Regulators Promise to Reinstate Health Coverage for Wrongfully Cancelled Patients; Cautions That All Health Costs During Gap Must be Covered
10. Empowering consumers with their health records
11. Consumer Watchdog Applauds L.A. City Attorneys Efforts to Reinstate Cancelled Blue Cross Patients; Urges State HMO Regulator to Immediately Reinstate Coverage
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/13/2017)... Shelton, CT (PRWEB) , ... October 13, 2017 , ... ... and long-term care services, staged a mock evacuation of the facility as part of ... Department, Shelton Fire Department, Echo Hose EMS and Shelton City Emergency Manager, as well ...
(Date:10/13/2017)... ... October 13, 2017 , ... Ellevate Network, the leading network ... advocate for action towards gender equality at their inaugural Summit in New York City ... and reached a social audience of over 3 million. To watch the Mobilize Women ...
(Date:10/13/2017)... ... , ... Talented host, actor Rob Lowe, is introducing a ... episode of "Success Files," which is an award-winning educational program broadcasted on PBS ... in-depth with passion and integrity. , Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve in ...
(Date:10/13/2017)... ... October 13, 2017 , ... “America On The Brink”: the Christian ... On The Brink” is the creation of published author, William Nowers. Captain Nowers ... a WWII veteran, he spent thirty years in the Navy. Following his career ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... Orleans, LA (PRWEB) , ... October 12, 2017 , ... ... centers in the U.S., announced today its plans to open a flagship location in ... will occupy the former Rooms To Go store next to Office Depot in the ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:9/25/2017)... AMSTERDAM , Sept. 25, 2017   ... Trial Master File solutions, today—from the IQPC Trial ... Amsterdam , NL)—announced that EastHORN Clinical Services ... its clinical programs and TMF management. EastHORN, a ... Montrium,s eTMF platform to increase transparency to enable ...
(Date:9/23/2017)... -- Janssen Biotech, Inc. (Janssen) announced today that it ... Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the Biologics License ... of moderately to severely active rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The ... to further evaluate the safety of sirukumab in the ... "We are disappointed by ...
(Date:9/22/2017)... 2017 AVACEN Medical (AVACEN) announced that its ... helping those with the widespread pain associated with fibromyalgia ... in Essex, England commented, "I ... experiencing no sleep at all, tremendous pain, with every ... recommend [the AVACEN 100] enough, how this has and ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: