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Costs Can Vary By $100 or More for Same Drugs
Date:5/5/2008

"A lot of people have the assumption that independent drug stores are expensive," Marks said. "In many cases, they were not the cheapest overall, but we did find a significant number of mom-and-pops that were highly competitive."

Consumers should also ask their employers about pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), which can offer substantially lower prices and co-payments, Marks said.

Marks also recommended buying generic drugs because they can cost up to 50 percent less than their brand-name equivalents. And consumers should look for store discount programs that can lower the cost of prescription medications for those without drug insurance, he said.

In another part of the survey, Consumer Reports questioned 40,133 readers about their drugstore experiences. Among the findings: People asked pharmacists for advice on prescription drugs just 38 percent of the time.

That's down from 50 percent since the last survey in 2002, Marks said, adding, "That's a pretty significant shift in the consumer-pharmacist relationship."

That's a worrisome trend, Marks said, because one-third of U.S. adults take five or more prescription medicines or supplements. And some 18 million people end up in hospital emergency room's each year because of medication errors, he said.

"Consumers should consult with their pharmacists, whether they're taking prescription drugs or even over-the-counter stuff, because people think they're innocent, but the fact of the matter is they can have serious ramifications," he said.

Marks noted that independent and chain drug stores both ranked high in consumer approval. Independent local pharmacies often ranked higher in personal service, compared with chain pharmacies, where consumers often experience longer waits, he said.

Pharmacies within supermarkets were rated high for convenience, Marks said. "One of the nice things about supermarket pharmacies is that they tend
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