Rx prices are patients' top pharmacy concern, AARP says

July 11, 2005

The No. 1 thing on pharmacy customers' minds these days isn't the side effects of their medication or how to take their drugs properly. According to a new survey, it's how much their prescriptions cost, and why prices keep going up. And according to the same survey, those are the very questions pharmacists are the least comfortable answering. These results were released at an AARP forum, held recently in Washington, D.C.

The No. 1 thing on pharmacy customers' minds these days isn't the side effects of their medication or how to take their drugs properly. According to a new survey, it's how much their prescriptions cost, and why prices keep going up. And according to the same survey, those are the very questions pharmacists are the least comfortable answering. These results were released at an AARP forum, held recently in Washington, D.C.

Of the more than 500 pharmacists nationwide surveyed by AARP, just 63% said they were very comfortable discussing the cost of Rx drugs.

The figures point to a disconnect between pharmacists and patients. And it's a disconnect experts say is being caused by relentlessly rising drug costs and widespread confusion over how drugs are actually priced. AARP said R.Ph.s will need better information on the cost of generic and brand drugs to give patients answers to their most pressing questions.

One solution to the problem of spiraling drug prices may be found in New York, where the law requires pharmacies to openly list drug prices. But it's still difficult for shoppers to collect data from five stores before making a purchase. That's why the state now runs a centralized Web site listing pharmacy prices, said Joseph Baker, chief of the Health Care Bureau in the office of state attorney general Eliot Spitzer, at the AARP forum.

Consumers "thought that pharmacies competed on the price of gum and Bounty and that the prices of drugs were the same everywhere," Baker said. But some patients were finding up to $100 price differences at pharmacies only a mile apart, he added.

The Author is a healthcare journalist based in the Washington, D.C., area.