Save money on pharmacy prescription by shopping around

Published: Updated:
Bottles of medication at a pharmacy. (CBS News photo)
Bottles of medication at a pharmacy. (CBS News photo)

Do you pay too much for prescription medications? Many readers may be shaking their heads in agreement right now and the answer to keeping more money in your wallet might be as simple as shopping around.

“The cost of medicine right now is outrageous,” George McKinney said.

McKinney knows how prescriptions can put a strain on your budget. He had problems with his left hip. Before the Dept. of Veterans Affairs stepped in to help pay for the prescriptions, he had to shop around for the best price.

“Going from different places,” McKinney said, “it costs a lot!”

He is right. We found the same thing when calling around for a commonly prescribed antibiotic.

While it starts out pretty cheap at Cypress Pharmacy at $10, it goes up a little at another independent store, San Carlos Pharmacy, to $15.

The prices continue to climb at a Publix in North Fort Myers to $22.95. Walmart on Pine Island Rd. charges $32.10. The most expensive location of the five pharmacies is the Walgreens on Bayshore Rd. at $39.99.

The five different pharmacies have five different prices with nearly four times the difference in the end.

Ashley Alvarez, a pharmacy technician at San Carlos Pharmacy, explains the difference between indepdent stores like hers and big chains like Walmart, Publix and Walgreens. She said as an independent pharmacy, they have control over pricing.

“Corporate decides what they’re pricing is going to be,” Alvarez said. “Generally, it’s around the same price that insurance is being billed.”

Alexandra Brown, manager of corporate media relations for Walgreens said the following to WINK News:

I have confirmed the cash price for a 250mg (6 tablets) of azithromycin is $39.99. Our Walgreens Prescriptions Savings Club offers the same prescription for $30.59.

It’s important to note that an extremely small percentage of our patients’ prescriptions are purchased at cash prices. To assist patients who may not have insurance, our Prescription Savings Club offers savings on more than 8,000 brand and generic medications. More information on this can be found here. We also accept all other major discount program cards. 

When choosing a pharmacy, we encourage patients to select one that offers the best value based on pricing and also the services available – such as participation in government plans, 24/7 convenience and services that can accommodate immediate prescription drug needs. It’s also important for patients to use a single pharmacy so that pharmacists can monitor their medications and avoid potential drug interactions. 

The differences in cost are influenced by a number of factors, including the business’ overhead costs, profit margins and the cost to get the drugs from manufacturers.

Some tips for lower prices is to make sure to ask for insurance and cash prices, paying out-of-pocket instead of by co-pay and requesting generic options.

Patients like McKinney want leaders to take action.

“I hope congress can hear this,” McKinney said, “and they can do something about this.”

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