Prescription drugs cost least at Costco and most at CVS: study

Thu Mar 28, 2013 6:44pm EDT

1 of 2. Shoppers push a trolley outside a Costco Wholesale store in Los Angeles, California March 6, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

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(Reuters) - Some of the most popular prescription drugs that recently became available in generic form are sold at the lowest prices at Costco and at the highest prices at CVS Caremark, according to an analysis by Consumer Reports.

Failing to comparison shop for drugs - such as generic Lipitor to lower cholesterol or generic Plavix to thin the blood - could result in overpaying by $100 a month or even more, depending on the drug, the report said.

The article will be available in the May issue of Consumer Reports.

Consumers may find good deals at local independent pharmacies, Consumer Reports said.

One of the big takeaway messages from the analysis is that the customer must ask the pharmacist for the best price, the publication said.

"Especially for the independent pharmacies, if they want to retain your business and loyalty, they will help you get the best price," Lisa Gill, an editor at Consumer Reports, said.

One reason for the wild cost fluctuations may be that different types of stores have different business incentives, she said.

"It really comes down to a store's business model. For example, big box stores tend to use their pharmacies as a way to get consumers through the door with the expectation that they'll buy other things," Gill added.

Victor Curtis, senior vice president of pharmacy for Costco, said the retailer does not sell below costs and that its pharmacy is a contributor to Costco's overall profitability.

Consumer Reports conducted its analysis by using "secret shoppers" who called more than 200 pharmacies throughout the United States to get retail prices, without using insurance, on a month's supply of five blockbuster drugs that have recently become available as generics.

The drugs were diabetes drug Actos (pioglitazone); antidepressant Lexapro (escitalopram); cholesterol fighter Lipitor (atorvastatin); blood thinner Plavix (clopidogrel); and asthma drug Singulair (montelukast).

There was a difference of $749 between the highest and lowest priced stores.

For example, one month's supply of generic Lipitor costs $17 at Costco, Consumer Reports' secret shoppers found. The same drug cost $150 at CVS. Rite Aid and Target had similarly high prices.

Consumer reports recommends getting refills for 90 days instead of 30 days, as most pharmacies offer discounts on a 3 months' supply.

(Reporting By Debra Sherman; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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Comments (2)
OlworkrB wrote:
How amazing is this revelation that Costco provides it’s customers the lowest cost for prescription medicines when it also manages to pay it’s employees the highest wages!

Mar 29, 2013 10:32am EDT  --  Report as abuse
jjmcke2 wrote:
Horrible article and I would challenge how the information was collected. If a randomn person calls and asks for a price. Most pharmacist do not have wholesale information in front of them and quote retail prices over the phone. This is where the 150 for generic plavix comes from. The reality is that most pharmacist will put in a coupon card which will give a wholesale price. At Target with one of these cards the cost of generic Plavix is less than 15 dollars. We cannot give the the discounted price over the phone, unless we happen to remember it, because that would require entering an RX into the computer which is not legal. If Costco does this than that raises some other questions. And as for the Independent issue. That is a myth. They just have the ability to manipulate on the front end because they do not have a corporate computer that prevents price manipulation. Ask most pharmacists in private and they will explain why independents make money.

Mar 29, 2013 2:52pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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