Whether you have health insurance or not, you could save lots of money on generic medicine by being a smart consumer.
Consumer Reports secret shoppers contacted more than 200 pharmacies around the country for pricing data. The consumer magazine found dramatic differences in prices.
We are talking about a 450 percent difference between what Costco charges for five of the most commonly prescribed generic drugs and what CVS charges for the same medicine.
For some medicine the difference was even greater. For instance Costco charges $7 for generic Lexapro, an antidepressant, while CVS charges $126 for the same 30 day supply.
Besides the generic version of Lexapro, Consumer Reports also got the prices on four other generic versions of medications: Actos, for diabetes; Lipitor, for high cholesterol; Plavix, a blood thinner; and Singulair, for asthma.
The total cost of a month supply of these five medications was $167 at Costco and $916 at CVS. Other well-known chains are also expensive: Rite Aid was $820; Target was $796, Walgreens was $433; Walmart was $426; Kmart was $392.
Interestingly enough there was a huge difference among both independent pharmacies and grocery store pharmacies. One factor that Consumer Reports found was whether the store was in an urban or rural area. Urban stores were generally more expensive than rural ones.
Some independent pharmacies had cheaper prices than Costco while others were more expensive than CVS. On average, independent pharmacies charged $381 for the basket of medication.
Similarly at grocery stores, some had prices close to Costco’s while others were also more expensive than CVS. On average though the price for the five medications was $658.
While Costco is a membership only chain, it does permit non-members to use its pharmacies for free.
Consumer Reports said its survey also showed that consumers don’t always automatically get the lowest prices that a store charges.
“Request the lowest price,” says Consumer Reports. “Our analysis showed that shoppers didn’t always receive the lowest available price when they called the pharmacy. Sometimes they were given a discounted price, and other times they were quoted the list price. Be sure to explain—whether you have insurance or not—that you want the lowest possible price. Our shoppers found that student and senior discounts may also apply, but again, you have to ask.”
In some cases generic drugs are cheaper when purchased cash retail rather than paying your insurance co-pay.
Consumer Reports also recommends that you ask your doctor for three month prescriptions because many pharmacies give discounts on 90 pills.
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