Why it really pays to shop around on prescriptions

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I-Team Troubleshooter Diane Wilson discovered the price of the same drug can vary very widely from store to store. (WTVD)

Prescriptions can be expensive, but that may be because it's easy to overpay.

Philippe Boistard learned that lesson the hard way when he had to fill two prescriptions after his hand surgery.

"My wife went to Rite Aid we called it in," he said.

At Rite Aid he paid $139.39 and $ 9.99 for the two prescriptions. But after doing some research and realizing he could have gotten the prescriptions for cheaper at Walmart he questioned Rite Aid about their prices. That's when he says the tech told him they would price match. He ended up getting the refill on the prescription that he paid $9.99 for the first time, for $4.00. The prescription that he paid $139.99 at Rite Aid, they would give him Walmart's price of $30.00, but he was so mad, he didn't end up getting that prescription from Rite Aid , he actually ended up going to Walmart and paid the $30.00.

Philippe said Rite Aid told him it uses competitive pricing.

Competitive pricing means setting the price of a product based on what the competition is charging. In this case, that means that if a local pharmacy is selling a prescription at a lower price, they would match that price, but only if a customer asks and can prove another pharmacy is selling it at a lower price.

It's a policy that frustrates consumers like Philippe.

"I just thought that was ridiculous that there're two sets of prices and if you don't ask you don't get the good price," he said.

For those consumers who don't know what to look for, we took a look at some apps and websites that make it easier to find these cheaper prices.

One website, Good Rx, http://www.goodrx.com/ allows users to simply type in what they are looking for and it will show the prices for that prescription from different pharmacies.

For example, according to Good Rx, one of the top selling drugs in America, Lipitor, can cost as much as $76.78 at Rite Aid but it's only $40.98 at CVS and $10.90 at Walmart.

Price comparisons for Lipitor from goodrx.com.


Another popular drug, Nexium, sells for $102.77 at Walgreens and $199.01 at Target. According to the site, you need to use a free coupon from Good Rx to get some of those mentioned prices.

Philippe's advice is to do your research before you buy.

"Go out and research, and to look and ask and even if you have insurance you're paying a co-pay for something and it should be a lot less," he said.

A representative from Rite Aid thanked me for bringing this to their attention and told me they take another look at their prices when they get feedback like this.

She said they do offer prescription price matching in some states, including North Carolina and that they go to great lengths to make sure that their prescription drugs are competitively priced.

Rite Aid and the other pharmacies that we mentioned do offer their own prescription savings programs.

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Rite Aid

A representative for Rite Aid thanked us for bringing this to their attention. The rep added, "We evaluate our prices whenever we receive feedback from customers, associates, or the media, which is what we are doing with the example you brought to us. Rite Aid currently offers prescription price matching in select states, including North Carolina. We go to great lengths to make sure that we are competitively priced with our chain drugstore competitors. Rite Aid also offers a free Rx Savings Program, which is available to all patients but is especially beneficial to those who are uninsured or underinsured. By signing up, customers get access to more than 500 generic medications at $9.99 for a 30-day supply and savings of up to 15% on thousands of generic and brand name prescriptions and other benefits. Visit http://www.riteaid.com/pharmacy/rx_savings.jsf for more details."

Target

A representative for Target issued us this statement when it comes to their prescription programs, " While Target does not have a specific price matching policy on prescriptions, Target does have a prescription savings program that saves members an average of 10-15% on qualifying prescription medication. This is a great way for Target guests and program members to save on their medicine". Here is information on Target's program. https://www.targetprescriptionsavingsprogram.com/FAQs

CVS

CVS also tells us it is not their policy to price match as most of their pharmacy customers have prescription insurance, and that percentage continues to increase every year under the Affordable Care Act. For customers who are not using insurance to pay for prescription medication, CVS accepts many of the pharmacy discount card programs that are available in the market. They also have their own prescription discount program, the CVS/pharmacy Health Savings Pass: http://www.cvs.com/content/health-savings-pass.

Walgreens


A representative for Walgreens tells us they do offer a prescription savings club, but it's not a price match offering. The rep added, "When choosing a pharmacy, we encourage patients to select one based on overall pricing and the services available. It's important for patients to use a single pharmacy so that pharmacists can monitor their medications and avoid potential drug interactions. Walgreens pharmacists provide trusted customer care and we are known for being available when and where our customers need us most. More than 95 percent of our patients purchase prescriptions using some form of prescription insurance coverage including Medicare Part D. They can also get discounted prices with our Prescription Savings Club, which offers discounts on more than 8,000 brand and generic medications. Walgreens is a preferred pharmacy in many Medicare Part D networks, where we provide free generic copays on select plans. We encourage patients to check with their pharmacist about ways to save on medications." Here is a link to their prescription savings club. http://www.walgreens.com/pharmacy/psc/psc_overview_page.jsp

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