It can take persistence and some
time to hunt down the lowest price product, but
the hunt can be worth it, as prices can differ
by 50 percent to 60 percent, or even more in the
case of an OTC drug such as aspirin, where pricing,
competition and consumer awareness have driven
prices down considerably during the past few years.
For other products, especially products that combine several medications in one package, price differences aren't so large. Findlay terms this "shadow pricing," where one product is priced only 10 percent or 15 percent lower than a competing product. Where the pricing difference isn't significant, many consumers will opt for the brand name over the slightly less expensive off-brand name.
Comparison pricing can really reap
benefits for consumers.
"The advice we give to consumers
is that it pays to go to several different pharmacies
and price the various alternatives, because in
most cases you'll be able to save more money as
some pharmacies will price the off-brands more
cheaply than others," Findlay says.
Drug companies have invested millions of dollars
in creating and marketing different versions of
their products that combine several different
active ingredients in one medication. Such combination
medications are aimed at dealing with illnesses
and conditions with multiple symptoms.
From the standpoint of the pharmacist, combination medications aren't always the best alternatives for treating ailments, although consumers tend to prefer them.
"Many consumers are overmedicating
themselves because in many cases they don't need
all those different active ingredients that are
in a combination medication," says Karbowicz.
"This is another case where the pharmacist
can help you find the best medication."
Jenkins agrees, saying that consumer
convenience and savvy marketing are behind the
trend toward more combination medications.
"It's funny because I actually bought the Neosporin the other day that contains pain relieving ingredients, even though as a pharmacist I know the pain relieving properties aren't that significant for something like a skinned knee; but as a parent I'm thinking it might be more palatable to my child," she says.