Did you know that not all pharmacies charge the same amount for prescription drugs? Well they don’t. The difference between two pharmacies can be great, as much as a five times difference, or even more.
For those of us who need to pay cash for our meds, shopping around to different pharmacies can make a big difference. As I mentioned, there can be a big difference between the cheapest pharmacy and the most expensive pharmacy. Now I am talking about comparing apples and apples here. This is not a comparison of generic to brand names (more on that below), but rather a comparison of the exact same med from one drug store to the one cross town!
Before you pay cash for a prescription, check at least 3 pharmacies. A good place to start is the discount houses like Costco or Sam’s Club. You might think that you can’t go there unless you have a membership, but think again. Even if you are not a member of these stores you can still use the pharmacies. They frequently have the best prices, but not always. Be sure to check the small “Mom and Pop” type of pharmacy too. Often they have the best price, and I think that the service is better here. You can also do a Google search on “price of ‘drug X’”. That will give you a list of pharmacies and how much they charge for that drug.
Generic vs brand drugs: With few exceptions, generic drugs are just as good as the brand...but much cheaper. On rare occasions it might make sense to use only the brand drug. You can ask your doctor if the medication that you are taking must be brand. If you are taking a medication where the dose is critical, (e.g. thyroid) it is more important to be sure that the manufacturer of the med is always the same. You may need to talk to the pharmacist this time. He can usually get the correct manufacturer med for you in 24-48 hrs.
Those of us with insurance can also save...although the savings will usually be less. It always makes sense to ask what the cost of a prescription would be if you didn’t use your insurance. It will usually be less with insurance, but not always. If the drug is cheap or if your copay is fixed you may save money by paying cash. This is frequently the case for chronic medications that are cheap. The cost for 100 pills could be close to the copay of one month’s supply. That means that you get over 3x the amount for the same. Just ask! Also, be sure to use one of the preferred pharmacies in your network. The copay will be lower here than an out of network pharmacy.
Do not assume that the first price you’re quoted is what you have to pay! In summary, it pays to shop around!
Article Written By Michael Huff, MD
Dr. Huff is a third-generation family practitioner. He practices family medicine in Oxnard where he was born and raised. He has been in practice for over 25 years. His special interests are pediatrics, gynecology and sports medicine.