Generic prescriptions found to have huge price differences at different pharmacies

SAVANNA, Okla. (KJRH) - Jackie Adkins's parents live on their own, but she handles their bills.

Adkins drives several hours a week from McAlester to Savanna, Okla. to help them with their medications.

"These prescriptions are too high," Adkins said, looking over the prescription bills from the last few months.

Her dad takes the generic drug for Zyprexa for his mental health.

In January, she went to Walgreens to refill his prescription and the bill.

"Six hundred eighty-five dollars and 90 cents," Adkins said, "He had to pay $372, his part for 30 pills, and I was like, he can't afford that."

So she got out her phone book and started to call around for a better price.

"Woods Pharmacy was $25 for the same medication," she said.

That's right, $25 without insurance for the same medication that cost more than $600 at another pharmacy.

After discovering this huge price difference, Adkins wanted answers.

NewsChannel5's sister station in Tulsa 2NEWS asked experts in the pharmaceutical field about the price difference. They were shocked by the extreme cost comparison between pharmacies.

"It kind of blew my mind; it was that far out of line," said Oklahoma Pharmacist Association Executive Director Phil Woodward.

"There might be a $20-price difference, even a $40, but I have never heard of a price difference that was $550-plus," Cindy Hamilton with the Oklahoma State Board of Pharmacy said.

Both Hamilton and Woodward believe one of the main reasons for different prescription prices has to do with a lack of oversight.

2NEWS' Problem Solvers went to work comparing drug prices and found much more than a $40 difference in some common generic drugs.

Here are the top five drugs found:

For the generic for Zocor, which treats cholesterol, the cheapest price was $19.92 and the highest was $121.62.

For the generic for Arimidex, a hormone treatment, the lowest cost was $16.60 and the highest price $156.50

The least expensive price for the generic for Plavix, for heart problems, was $181.46 and the most expensive was $332.30

For Seroquel generic, prescribed for mental health, it was $180.26 at one pharmacy and $348.99 at another.

And of the non-scientific survey, the generic drug with the biggest price difference was for prescription strength Prilosec for heartburn, with a low of $33.01 and a high of $235.

HOW CAN YOU SAVE MONEY?

First, shop around. Remember that prices will vary, especially for generic medications.

The Problem Solvers often found that smaller pharmacies were cheaper than the big chain stores.

Second, be aware that sometimes using your insurance is actually more expensive than paying the cash price.

This is because a third party signs contracts with pharmacies that set the maximum allowable cost that a plan will pay for generic drugs.

So make sure you ask your pharmacist for both prices.

"The whole idea is to save the patient some money by saying, don't pay the $20 co-pay. I can sell it to you for $12," Woodward said.

And that is saving Adkins and her family money.

"Daddy spent more money in January for meds then he'll spend now for a whole year," Adkins said.

And that takes the sticker shock out of filling prescriptions for generic drugs.

FUTURE REGULATION

While there are no regulations in place for cash prices of generic drugs, there is legislative action in Oklahoma that would regulate third party price setting.

The Problem Solvers are continuing to investigative these changes and will keep updating the public and this ongoing story.

If you have had sticker shock on your generic drugs, let us know. Email Jamil.Donith@kjrh.com.

Print this article Back to Top

Comments