Americans Pay Up to 10 Times Too Much for Medications

Would you rather pay $330 for your monthly prescription, or $15? In some cities, the choice is entirely yours.

Just 17 percent of people comparison shop for their prescriptions to find better deals, a new survey shows.

That means 83 percent are potentially paying hundreds of dollars more than necessary each time they fill a prescription, according to Consumer Reports.

The nonprofit found that medications can cost as much as 10 times more at one retailer compared with the cost at another.

Lisa Gill, prescription drug editor at Consumer Reports, tells “CBS This Morning”:

“(We) discovered enormous price variations around the country, but also within the same zip code. Most people would not think, ‘Hey, I’m going to pick up the phone and call around,’ but you can save a bundle of money if you do.”

For its survey, Consumer Reports had secret shoppers call the pharmacies of more than 200 stores in six metros across the country to price five common generic prescription drugs. Their findings included:

  • In Raleigh, North Carolina, the price for one month’s supply of generic Cymbalta, an antidepressant that’s also used to treat pain, ranged from $43 (at Costco) to $249 (Walgreens).
  • In Dallas, the price for generic Plavix, a blood thinner, ranged from $23 (independent Preston Village Pharmacy) to $150 (CVS).
  • In Denver, the price for generic Actos, for Type 2 diabetes, ranged from $15 (Cherry Creek Pharmacy) to $330 (grocery store Albertson’s Save-On).

Overall, the retailers with the lowest prices were:

  • HealthWarehouse.com
  • Costco
  • Independent pharmacies

Those with the highest prices were:

  • Walgreens
  • Rite Aid
  • CVS

Medication prices vary more for consumers who are paying out of pocket rather than with insurance. Consumer Reports found, however, that even consumers paying a flat insurance copay can sometimes save money by shopping around:

Sometimes the price you’d pay out of pocket (what those without insurance are charged) might be less than your copay — a fact pharmacists may neglect to mention. Case in point: Metformin — used to treat type 2 diabetes — sells for just $4 for a month’s supply, or $10 for a three-month supply, at stores such as Target and Walmart, while a copay for a month’s worth averages about $11.

To learn more, check out “10 Ways to Get Your Medications for Less.”

Do you comparison shop for your medications? Let us know what you’ve learned by doing so below or in our Forums. It’s a place where you can swap questions and answers on money-related matters, life hacks and ingenious ways to save.

Stacy Johnson

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