Prescription Prices can Vary Hundreds of Dollars from Pharmacy to Pharmacy

Updated: 05/08/2014 10:46 PM
Created: 05/08/2014 5:22 PM
By: Ellen Galles

Any time we buy anything - whether it's a car, a house or a gallon of milk - we have the benefit of seeing the price tag. Prescription drugs aren't always the same way. 

Most pharmacies don't list prices for prescriptions and 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS found the same prescriptions being sold for lots of different prices across the metro. 

In some cases, the difference could save you hundreds of dollars.

For instance KSTP checked the cash price for a 20-mg prescription of the generic version of Lipitor, which is used to lower cholesterol.  Walgreen's cash price for a 30-day prescription was $150, Target sells it for $69.99, Costco sells the same prescription for only $15.59 and even cheaper is a mail-order option which sells a 90-day dose of the medication for $24.92; which breaks down to $8.30 a month.

Take another popular-selling prescription: the generic version of Ambien, which is used to treat insomnia. The cash price for a 30-day, 10-mg dose of the generic is $48.00 at Target. The best price we found was once again at Costco for $12.55 for a 30-day prescription.

"Pricing becomes a shell game. What shell is the price under? How much is it?" said Dr. Stephen Schondelmeyer, Professor of Pharmacy Management and Economic at The University of Minnesota.

Schondelmeyer says consumers should call around and compare prices. Many pharmacies are willing to match the competition's prices.  

He also says it's important to find a pharmacy you can trust, and someone who knows all the different prescriptions you're taking.

"The consumer needs to realize it's not just about getting the best price.  It's about getting the best value in the long run," he said. 

Hear more from Schondelmeyer here.

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