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Where to buy affordable drugs in the US


To find the best price for one or another medical product, you need to go around a lot of different pharmacies. Study Consumer Reports found that in different types of pharmacies prices vary greatly, even within the same zip code. In addition, at the end of the material you will learn how to look for lower drug prices and save.

The study of prices for medical drugs conducted by Consumer Reports, found that the cost of medical prescription very much depends on the point of sale.

From Midsummer to Early Autumn Mystery Shoppers Consumer Reports phoned more than 150 pharmacies in six metropolitan areas across the country. They asked the retail price at a discount (cash price) for the monthly rate of the five most popular prescription generic drugs: Acts against diabetes Celebrex against pain Cymbalta against depression Lipitor against high cholesterol and plavix to thin the blood.

The difference in the retail price at a discount for these drugs in the surveyed points of sale - and these are several dozens of national retail chains, grocery stores and independent pharmacies - was impressed. At the point of sale with the lowest prices, a “basket” of five drugs cost less than $ 100, whereas in the most expensive networks - CVS and Kmart - Its value has reached almost $ 1 000.

Consumer Reports have asked CVS and Kmart comment on the results. Both networks have stated that they have internal programs with which this price can be reduced.

В Kmart They said that since the survey was conducted, they have changed the pricing strategy to keep prices low each day. The new cost of the investigated "basket" of drugs, according to the representative Kmartwill be approximately $ 550. (When representatives Consumer Reports checked prices again in mid-December, the results were different. More on this later.)

Фото: Depositphotos

The lowest total cost of five drugs in the study was $ 95 in an online pharmacy (it has no physical points of sale) Among the stores the best price offered in Costco - $ 117 per set.

The results of this experiment revealed an important point: it is more profitable to pay for prescription drugs in cash rather than with insurance. The second no less important observation: to get the best price, you need to go around a lot of pharmacies and ask a lot of questions, including "What is the lowest possible price for this drug?".

One should also ask about store coupons and look for coupons online at free discount sites. Or buy in stores, warehouses type Costco and Sam's Clubonline pharmacy and in independent pharmacies - they all offered very good prices to secret buyers Consumer Reports.

“With these tips, consumers can save money on medications,” says Dr. Orly Avicour, medical director. Consumer Reports. “Since people often cannot afford the necessary medicines, this is more important than ever.”

Let yourself get well

Secret buyers received a task - to ask about the retail price at a discount or the price when paying in cash to get a complete picture. The price trends they discovered are repeated for all the studied drugs in all locations where the study was conducted, including in the suburbs, in the cities and in the countryside.

Фото: Depositphotos

Where drugs cheaper: analysis Price

So, the list included: a drug against diabetes pioglitazone (generic Acts, 30 mg); painkiller celecoxib (generic Celebrex, 200 mg); antidepressant duloxetine (generic Cymbalta, 20 mg); drug against cholesterol atorvastatin (generic Lipitor, 20 mg); and clopidogrel (generic plavix, 75 mg) to thin the blood. The table below shows the average retail prices for a monthly course of the drug provided by pharmacies.

Point of salePriceTotal price
(Plavix)$ 15$ 35$ 24$ 12$ 10$ 95
Independent pharmacies [1]$ 19
($ 10- $ 493)
$ 34
($ 11- $ 295)
$ 31
($ 20- $ 267)
$ 15
($ 8- $ 197)
$ 15
($ 8- $ 260)
$ 107
($ 69- $ 1,351)
Costco [2]$ 17$ 35$ 40$ 13$ 13$ 117
Sam's Club [2]$ 25$ 102$ 66$ 20$ 28$ 241
Walmart$ 132$ 203$ 122$ 30$ 30$ 518
Food shops [3]$ 113
($ 10- $ 349)
$ 189
($ 46- $ 250)
$ 170
($ 13- $ 223)
$ 32
($ 11- $ 71)
$ 36
($ 7- $ 224)
$ 565
($ 88- $ 1,117)
Walgreens$ 167$ 204$ 220$ 65$ 65$ 721
Rite aid$ 255$ 201$ 170$ 127$ 130$ 864
CVS / Target$ 282$ 215$ 195$ 135$ 142$ 970
Kmart$ 283$ 200$ 185$ 242$ 184$ 1,093

[1] Prices in brackets are a “fork” for all surveyed points of sale.

[2] Prices are not for loyalty program members.

[3] Prices in brackets - “plug” the average price in the surveyed points of sale, including in Albertsons, Food Lion, Giant Eagle, HEB, Hy-Vee, Kroger, Publix and others.

CR found that prices for the same drug are very different, even at different points of sale in the same area. For example, in Dallas, the monthly rate Cymbalta в Walgreens worth $ 220, and in Tom Thumb supermarket - $ 174, in Costco - $ 40, and in an independent pharmacy Avita Pharmacy - $ 23. That is the price Walgreens almost 10 times the lowest.

Maps Price on drugs

The cards show prices for the monthly rate of three prescription drugs at pharmacies in Dallas, Pittsburgh and Seattle.






Cash can be cheaper than through insurance

If you belong to 9% of the adult American population (approximately 28 of millions of people) who do not have insurance and who pay medical expenses from their own pocket, it is definitely important to look for your drug at different points of sale, says Avicur of CR.

However, finding the best price is worth the effort and time, even if you have insurance. Mystery shoppers revealed that the lowest price offers in pharmacies sometimes turn out better than using insurance and their surcharge. It works even for those who receive insurance. Medicare Part D.

This is especially true for drugs that your insurance covers partially or does not cover at all, as a result of which you are required to pay a considerable amount or percentage of the declared price of the drug.

Finding the best price also pays off if you have high deductible insurance. For such insurance, families are required to pay $ 2 600 or even more out of pocket, and only then the costs begin to cover your plan. Up to this threshold, consumers with such plans often have to pay out higher amounts for drugs, sometimes even full retail prices.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 40% of adult Americans under the age of 65 who received insurance through their employer had high franchise plans in 2016.

And despite the fact that the search for the best price can justify itself, a third of the respondents for a recent study Consumer Reports 1 200 people taking at least one prescription drug said that they are just paying a higher price. Only 22% of respondents said they found out the price at different points of sale to find the best deal.

Why such a big difference in price

How much you pay for a prescription drug has little to do with the principles of supply and demand, which affect other consumer purchases from toothpaste to automobiles, says Dr. Steven Schondelmeer, professor of pharmaceutical economics at the University of Minnesota. Instead, prices are set according to convoluted and informal contracts between several players in the prescription drug industry.

This includes retail pharmacies, and medical insurance companies, and drug manufacturers, and drug benefit managers, companies that help make deals between insurers and drug manufacturers.

Prices vary in part due to the fact that contracts between drug benefit managers and pharmacies vary greatly depending on the retail network, says Douglas Howie, CEO National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA).

Due to the fact that pharmacies usually do not know how much the insurance company will give them money for this or that drug, they often put up high cash prices to get the most from insurers, says Howie. For example, if a pharmacy puts a cash price in the amount of $ 10 for a drug to a consumer, then the insurance company may be indignant if the pharmacy charges it a higher price.

However, all these backstage details remain hidden from the eyes of consumers and doctors. Schondelmeer notes that after a visit to the doctor they send you a document Explanation of Benefits (EOB), which shows your expenses and how much the insurance paid. But prescription drugs often do not provide such calculations.

“The sad news is that even those consumers who are trying to figure out the real value in this crazy market simply cannot do it,” he says.

After Kmart informed researchers Consumer Reports about updating prices in December, secret buyers called the same stores again to find out the new price. Two medicines from five - Lipitor and Plavix - matched the new lower price that was provided at Kmartbut prices Cymbalta and Actos in the literal sense of the word, they changed over night from a higher price, which secret buyers were called at the beginning to a new, lower, provided Kmart. The price of the fifth drug, Celebrex, remained unchanged compared to the original study - $ 200.

CVS Press Secretary Mike DeAngelis reported Consumer ReportsCVS "is doing everything possible to ensure that our retail prices for prescription drugs are competitive in the market." According to him, this study did not take into account “various offers and discount programs available at most pharmacies for customers paying in cash.” DeAngelis says that 75% of recipes made in CVS cost patients $ 10 or less. (Also note that CVS now owns pharmacies in stores Target.)

But DeAngelis also mentioned that “due to different business models and operating costs, prices for some drugs in a retail pharmacy like CV Pharmacy and other companies that own pharmacies may vary. ”

In the more affordable price segment was Costco. Victor Curtis, senior vice president of the company for pharmaceutical issues, says that their network can offer such low prices - and at the same time earn money - because they do not have additional “buns”: pharmacies are limited, shops are closed on Sunday, 24 hours drive-thru, and because the organization works centrally, you can get some medications only the next day.

This strategy attracts customers who pay for drugs entirely from their own pockets - 30% recipes through Costco consumers pay for themselves, without insurance. At the same time, the industry average is 5%, experts say.

One of the reasons why few people know about lower prices are insurance companies. Contracts between pharmacies and drug insurers or drug benefit managers sometimes contain additional items that prohibit or prevent pharmacists from telling their customers that they can get a lower retail price if they pay without insurance, says Howie.

Several states, among them Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina and North Dakota, have already passed laws recognizing such clauses in agreements as illegal, according to the NCPA.

Фото: Depositphotos

How to search for lower drug prices and save money

Undercover CR buyers did not just determine which pharmacies had the lowest prices, but also found some additional effective strategies for getting lower prices on drugs.

  • Ask what is the “lowest possible price” ('lowest possible price'). This will be the lowest price that a pharmacy can offer you without insurance. This price may be lower than your co-payment for these drugs under the insurance policy. If you ask about this price yourself, this will allow the pharmacist to bypass the above points, which do not allow him to say this himself. Just remember that if you did not use the insurance, then the money saved is unlikely to go into your deductions from the maximum amount of expenses of the insured.
  • Look in clubs like Costco и Sat's Club. You do not have to be a member of these clubs in order to get the prices offered to clandestine buyers. But if you pay for the membership - $ 60 in Costco and $ 100 to Sam's club- then for you the drugs will be even cheaper. Representative Sam's club in Dallas told CR's secret shopper that with membership Sam's Club Plus Membersip available Acts is free, Plavix and Lipitor - for $ 10, and additional discounts on many other drugs.
  • Look in the online pharmacy In the study Consumer Reports she offered the lowest prices for a package of drugs. If you look at other sites, look for those that work in the US and end in '.pharmacy'or who have a VIPPS symbol (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site). This means that the online pharmacy meets the strict standards of the National Association of Pharmaceutical Administrations.
  • Ask about discounts at the box office. Many pharmacy chains, including CVS and Rite Aidwhich, when interviewed, called high prices, say that they offer discounts to customers at the checkout. For example, Rite aid offers hundreds of generic drugs for $ 10 per month, or $ 16 for a stock for 90 days. But not all discounts can be used with insurance, including Medicate.
  • Look for online coupons. Some pharmacies advised secret buyers to use coupons from online services like Blink Health and GoodRx. Here you can find coupons for use in different stores and compare prices - and save time on a visit. Best of all, these services are not worth the money.
  • Explore independent pharmacies. Local pharmacies sometimes offer the lowest prices and sometimes the highest. But you will not know until you go there. For example: the cost of the 30-day course of pioglitazone (generic Acts) The independent pharmacies that entered this study ranged from $ 10 to $ 493.
  • Do not neglect pharmacies in supermarkets. As in the case of independent pharmacies, some pharmacies in supermarkets offered a very good price - but in the rest it was high. Check the cost of the drug at the local supermarket, and at the same time in the neighboring pharmacies.
  • If you find your pharmacy, buy in it. When you find the point of sale of medicines, in which they are the most affordable, go there with all your recipes. Why? Because in this case, pharmacists will be able to see potentially dangerous drug interactions, Avicurre said. But if you see that your drug costs are creeping up, it may be time to again find “your” pharmacy with the best offers.

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