A new Consumer Reports review that shows a huge disparity in what a drug can cost, depending on where you buy it.
When Desiree Bercilla picked up the phone to get the cash price for her boyfriend's prescription, she had no idea she was dialing for dollars.
“And then I called the third place, and I thought, whoa, how is this even possible? From $600 to $500 to $200 to $34.99,” Bercilla said.
The working mom got similar results when she checked again.
The prices for Valtrex, an antiviral drug ranged from nearly $600 at Walmart to $473 at Costco. For the generic version. Walgreens was the highest at almost $242 and the cheapest at Costco came in at just under $39.
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“If you don't know that you have to shop around in order to do this, then they got you,” Bercilla said.
A Consumer Reports investigation out this month found similar results in six cities when it checked on five common generic drugs including treatments for pain, cholesterol, and diabetes.
In Pittsburgh, the survey found a one-month supply of the generic version of Lipitor cost a high of $135 at a CVS in North Oakland, $71 at a Giant Eagle in the South Hills, $13 at a Costco in the Robinson area and finally, $8 at an independent pharmacy in Millvale.
Pharmacy chains say these are cash prices and most people pay prices negotiated by insurance companies.
The chains say they try to keep their prices competitive and point out retail pharmacies have different costs than warehouses like Costco or online stores.
To make sure you're getting the best deal, ask about in-store discount programs and search online at accredited pharmacies and websites like Good RX where you can compare prices in your ZIP code and get coupons.
The bottom line is research pays off.
A tip from Consumer Reports: Always ask your pharmacist for the lowest price and then try to negotiate from there. The magazine says, you need to start shopping for your medicine the way you would shop for your car.
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