The Cheapest Pharmacy for Prescriptions Might Surprise You

The Cheapest Pharmacy for Prescriptions Might Surprise You
Photo by Dragana Gordic /

When you think of pharmacies, places like Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid probably leap to mind. But if you want to save money, it pays to think beyond those traditional drugstores.

In fact, you probably will fare much better if you shop for your drugs and other pharmacy items at big-box stores and grocery stores, according to a recent analysis by Cheapism.

The website looked at out-of-pocket prices at six chain pharmacies:

  • CVS Pharmacy
  • Kroger
  • Rite Aid
  • Target (CVS acquired Target pharmacies in late 2015)
  • Walgreens
  • Walmart

Out-of-pocket prices are sometimes also referred to as cash prices. They are the prices you would pay for something if you did not have health insurance, or if you chose not to use your insurance for the purchase. So, out-of-pocket prices are determined by retailers rather than insurers.

Cheapism says that when it comes to out-of-pocket prescription drug prices, Walmart and Kroger “undercut the major drugstores by a wide margin.” Between those two, Walmart had the better prices for the prescriptions included in the analysis.

The differences in price can be staggering.

Prices for a one-month supply of a 75-milligram dose of Clopidogrel — generic Plavix — can cost more than $100 at Rite Aid, Walgreens and CVS/Target. However, that same prescription costs just $39.49 at Kroger — and a rock-bottom $9 at Walmart.

Overall, you’re likely to pay a total of $669.61 at Walmart for the 13 medications in the analysis. Kroger — at a total of $687.87 — also offered a great deal. By contrast, you’ll pay $1,097.67 for those same drugs at CVS/Target.

Walmart pharmacy savings don’t stop at prescription drugs, though. Cheapism adds:

“Walmart is also the cheapest place to buy many over-the-counter medications. When we compared prices on a range of vaccinations, including seasonal flu shots, Walmart was, again, the cheapest option.”

Walmart doesn’t have the lowest prices on all pharmacy goods, however. The analysis found that Target has the best prices on personal care and beauty products.

Cheapism also reminds readers that stand-alone pharmacies sometimes offer perks that go beyond pricing — such as bigger selection and rewards programs.

CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid all do offer free loyalty programs, for example, but they aren’t alone.

The Kroger Co., the company behind Kroger and related grocery chains, announced its new Kroger Rx Savings Club late last year. It’s not free, but members save far more money than they pay for the membership, on average, according to the program website.

How to save more on prescription drugs

Looking to cut your prescription drug costs? Then, make technology your friend. The internet is full of websites that can help you trim costs — by as much as 90%. We highlight some of the best in “5 Websites to Check Before Buying Prescription Drugs.”

Low prices are great — but nothing beats free. Find out how to grab gratis medications in our story “4 Grocery Store Chains That Offer Free Prescription Drugs.”

Finally, Money Talks News managing editor Karla Bowsher tells her personal story of reducing prescription drug spending in “5 Ways I Have Slashed My Prescription Drug Costs.”

Do you have tips for cutting drug prices? Share them in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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