The PBS NewsHour reported on 12/23/13 an astounding survey — they found a generic medication for breast cancer (letrozole) ranged in price from $9 to $400 dollars for a 30 day supply. Even more surprising the company that charged $400 dollars agreed to match the $9 price at a competitor.
Not only do pharmacies price gouge so do insurance companies. Almost uniformly insurance drug plans add $20 to every generic prescription. So a typical $10 generic prescription without insurance involvement will cost you a copay of $30 with insurance. And, do you think the pharmacist will suggest you avoid using insurance — not usually, since the $20 copay is for them!
What should you do?
- Shop around — check prices at several pharmacies
- ASK if there is any program the pharmacy has to lower that price (sometimes if you get a shoppers card you get better prices)
- You don’t need a membership to get prescriptions from Costco. Consumer Reports rated them as having the best generic prices.
- Here is a great place to check prices: goodrx.com (and they will print coupons for free!)
- You can get mail order generics here with free shipping. Usually their prices are good: healthwarehouse.com
- Don’t involve your insurance plan if it costs you more out of pocket than just outright paying for the prescription.
- Insurance plans often limit the prescription to 30 days (with a copay every time). Getting your prescription in 90 day amounts saves trips to the pharmacy and often improves the discount.
- Pharmaceutical companies often make a long-acting medication just before the patent runs out on the short-acting form. Ask your doctor if the long-acting medication is absolutely needed. Sometimes taking a medication twice a day at a generic price is much less expensive than once a day at a brand name price.
The price gouging is astounding. Patients often think a pharmacy just adds a small amount to the wholesale price. Not so. They often set the price at some percentage less that the brand name — hugely more profitable for them and devastating for consumers.
The price gouging makes you understand better why the UK and other countries have legislated a solution — they negotiate a country-wide price for each generic medication and allow only a few dollars to be charged as a dispensing fee. The US has a long way to go to protect consumers and reduce health care costs.