Are you struggling, like me, with prescription drug high costs? Do you wonder why generic and name brand drug prices vary considerably at pharmacies? Then you’re part of the growing number of folks who ask “what’s going on here?” Why do prescription drug prices differ a lot at retail? And what can we do to lower our ever-increasing drug bill?
I recently discovered, when changing health plans on the “open exchange”–ObamaCare to some–that prescription drug retail prices vary considerably from chain-to-chain.
Using GoodRx, an online prescription drug information and discount coupon service, I compared three generic medication prices at CVS, where I’ve filled most prescriptions in the past year. I discovered that Walmart, Target and a few other chains were cheaper using GoodRx’ contract prices.
GoodRx Lowers Prescription Drug High Costs up to 80%
Working with PBM’s (Pharmacy Benefit Management) firms, GoodRx finds the lowest prices for users of its site. Consumers enter a drug name and zip code online to find GoodRx’ contracted prices with Walmart, CVS, RiteAid, Walgreens and a few online pharmacies. Consumers may print out coupons containing drug names, types and retailer codes, then show the printout when paying for drugs. GoodRx doesn’t require registration to use the service.
Today, I saved $133 on three meds filled at Walmart paying only $35 rather than the chain’s $165 published price list. That includes one medication already on Walmart’s $4 generic list for a month’s supply. If I would have filled the three meds at CVS, my bill would have been $110 (includes CVS’ $15 yearly Health Pass Savings charge). Prices, per GoodRx, were similar at Target, Walgreens and Safeway, while RiteAid and CVS were considerably higher.
Why do Prescription Prices Differ Significantly?
You’ve probably paid “full retail” for one or more medications. One time, I was charged over $100 for a couple of medications at Walgreens when I was in between plans. Despite attempts at health care reform in Congress, prescription manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, retailers and hospitals continue charging consumers exorbitant prices for medications.
When I worked in the pharmaceutical “reverse distribution” business (taking back drugs from the market), I learned that prescription drug marketing in the U.S. is very non-competitive.
- Too few manufacturers produce the majority of drugs we consume
- Large corporations buy smaller firms and attempt to shut down generic manufacturers
- Prescription drug research costs are high
- Brands accounting for the majority of sales revenue per company are few
- Regulation by the FDA hinders timely release of new pharmaceuticals
It’s the perfect storm for a non-competitive, high priced, anti-consumer business adding billions of dollars to U.S. health costs.
Taking Steps to Lower Prescription Drug Costs
So what can be done? If I had the best solution, someone would hire me as a consultant. While I don’t have the “magic pill” to reduce high prescription drug costs, I do believe consumers, companies like GoodRx and watchdog groups must lead the charge. To begin:
- Reveal and compare pharmacy pricing
- Negotiate with major retailers to lower prescription drug high costs
- Educate consumers about making wise buying decisions
- Consumers, talk with your physicians about your prescription drug costs. Find other suitable medications for illnesses. Don’t ask doctors for a script every time you don’t feel well.
Over time, costs will drop. Yes, prescription drug high costs can be controlled.