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Drugs: It pays to shop around

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Sunday, April 7, 2013
Posted: 7 am ET

I compare prices for all kinds of products and have been known to quibble over pennies, but for years I paid too much for a prescription drug I take daily.

Mine is a mistake that could help derail retirement planning, and, apparently, I'm not the only one who isn't vigilant. In the May issue of Consumer Reports magazine, researchers point out that the price differences at various drug stores can be enormous.

The magazine compared prices at 200 pharmacies for a month's supply of five drugs commonly prescribed for people living in retirement. These drugs have recently become available as generics, so if you take one of them, make sure you aren't paying too much. Consumer Reports found a price difference of $749 for a month's supply between the highest- and lowest-priced stores. The drugs are: Actos (pioglitazone), for diabetes; Lexapro (escitalopram), an antidepressant; Lipitor (atorvastatin), for high cholesterol; Plavix (clopidogrel), a blood thinner; and Singulair (montelukast), for asthma.

Consumer Reports offered these pricing observations:

  • A month's supply of generic Lipitor cost the magazine's secret shopper $17 at Costco and $150 at  CVS -- a difference of $133.
  • The generic version of the antidepressant Lexapro cost $7 at Costco and $126 at CVS. Prices at Rite-Aid and Walgreens were also on the high side.
  • The generic version of Plavix cost $12 through, while CVS told the magazine the drug cost $180.

I found it also pays to make sure that you aren't paying more for your insurance company's deductible than you would if you were simply paying the retail price. By asking my doctor to give me a 90-day prescription, I was able to buy a supply of the pills I take for $10 -- at various outlets, including Wal-Mart. Previously, I was paying a $15 insurance deductible for a 30-day supply.

In the words of Smokey Robinson, my Motown fave, "You better shop around."

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April 04, 2014 at 4:09 am

NICE good product to market for consumer

Jeff Spangler
April 09, 2013 at 5:08 pm

Consumers can indeed save a bundle by using mail-order pharmacies like and the website which compares local prices for commonly prescribed drugs. If you hate drug companies as much as I do, use these resources. Not that it'll make much difference to Big Pharma in the short run, but it makes me feel better.