You need to shop around for generic drugs

December 24, 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Good morning:

Crane and I have discovered that generic drugs not only vary widely in price, but your local independent pharmacy may charge you considerably less than CVC or Walgreens.

Hundreds of dollars less for the same generic drug.

PBS NewsHour Weekend’s Megan Thompson interviewed her mother, Carol Thompson, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, about her experiences purchasing Letrozole, the brand name drug she was prescribed, and its generic after it went off patent a couple of years later.

Because of her high deductible, Carol Thompson had to pay over $400 per month for Letrozole. When it went generic, the price for a one-month supply varied from $10 at Costco to $455 at Target.

Megan Thompson also interviewed Lisa Gill, the editor for prescription drug coverage at Consumer Reports. Gill organized a survey of more than 200 pharmacies around the country to find out what they were charging for five blockbuster drugs that had recently gone generic.

The study found the cost of a month’s supply of generic Plavix, a blood thinner, ranged from $15 at Costco and $12 at an online store …all the way up to 10 to 15 times more at Target and CVS. It was similar for generic Lipitor, used to control cholesterol. Prices ranged from 15 to 17 dollars, up to around 9 times higher at other national chains.

The results of the survey were published in the spring issue of Consumer Reports. You can read the article here.

As the following exchange demonstrates, do not forget to check with your local independent pharmacy when you comparison shop for the lowest price to pay for your prescription medication.

PBS Newshour reports:

MEGAN THOMPSON: Costco wouldn’t tell us the wholesale price it paid for my mom’s cancer drug, but another pharmacist told us what he paid. Tom Sengupta owns Schneider Drug. It’s one of just a few small, independently-owned pharmacies left in the Twin Cities. Those smaller independents all quoted my mom some of the lowest prices for her breast cancer generic, something that surprised her.

CAROL THOMPSON: It’s not intuitive, really, that a corner drugstore, an independent– small, independent retailer would also have some of the best prices.

MEGAN THOMPSON: At many large chains, prices are set at the corporate level, according to representatives we spoke to. But Sengupta decides on his own what to charge – $14 for my mom’s drug. He just adds a small mark-up to the wholesale price he can buy it for – anywhere from around 7 dollars to 28.

TOM SENGUPTA: And also, my pricing is based on the person I’m talking to. You know, because if they need something, this is my responsibility to provide that to them. I’m not losing any money.

MEGAN THOMPSON: Sengupta guesses that big chains, which buy in larger volume, can probably get even better wholesale prices than he can. And he bristles when he hears some quoted my mom a price of more than $400 when he’s charging just $14.

TOM SENGUPTA: How could you justify that? You know? If you had any morality – we don’t need to make money like that. We have to ask, what’s happening? Where is their moral compass?

Merry Christmas and Happy holidays.

I hope this information saves you much convenience and money in the coming year.


(This is our 821st post)

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