While independent pharmacies say it is difficult for them to compete against large retail chains’ $4 generic drug programs, a new survey finds that they can offer better prices on some other generics.
After secretly shopping at 200 independent and chain pharmacies in six U.S. cities, Consumer Reports recently published an article that found a wide variance in the prices quoted for generic drugs. Prices of products offered at independent stores were different — lower in some cases and higher in others — from those found at large retail chains.
While investigators found both lower and higher prices for generics at independent stores, shoppers often had better luck asking for a lower price on their generic prescription drugs from independents, “where pharmacists might have more flexibility to match or beat competitors’ prices,” the article stated.
The article suggested several ways for consumers to save money on generic drugs, including skipping chain drugstores and some supermarket chains. According to Consumer Reports, the best prices for generic medications were found at Costco.
Hard to beat $4 generics programs
Among the independent and chain pharmacists who spoke with Drug Topics, opinions were equally varied.
“There is not a lot we can do, if you’re a patient who is in the chains’ programs or you use the $4 prescription programs. I can’t compete with those,” said Peter Wolfe, Sr., owner of a longstanding independent pharmacy, Wolfe’s Pharmacy in Chauvin, La. “But if your prescription is not in a program, you sometimes pay double what you would pay at an independent.”
Wolfe said he can’t compete with the $4 generics programs offered by chains such as Walmart and Walgreens because “I don’t let a prescription walk out of here for less than it costs to dispense it.”
On the other hand, Jeff D’Angelo, pharmacy manager at a Walgreens store in Rensselaer, Ind., believes patients can save money on generics at chain drugstores. “At Walgreens, we have our Prescription Savings Club Program. It’s a yearly membership fee, but you can get several hundred drugs for a 90-day supply for as little as $10,” he said. “Patients should be looking into the discount programs offered by the chains and buy a 90-day supply. They would do a lot better than if they are buying a regular supply.”
However, Wolfe doesn’t agree that chain pharmacy’s 90-day programs will always save patients money. “The prices of generics are going up and co-pays are coming up. Also, patients could have money invested in a 90-day supply, and then the doctor takes the patient off that medication.”