In 2003 the Arizona Attorney General's Office conducted a statewide prescription drug price study focused on the uninsured prescription drug buyer--the person who has to pay cash. Fifty retail pharmacies (including independent pharmacies, pharmacy chains, and the pharmacy departments of grocery stores) throughout Arizona agreed to provide price information on 20 commonly prescribed drugs. Additionally, prices were gathered from eight Internet pharmacy sites, including some from companies that have physical presences in Arizona. All pharmacies were asked about the same dosages and quantities of the 20 selected drugs so that prices would be directly comparable. The Attorney General's Office found that:
- The price of prescription drugs varies by as much as 60% from pharmacy to pharmacy, and consumers can save hundreds of dollars per year just by comparison shopping.
- Average prices vary geographically within the State, and are highest in Sun City, where on average, residents pay 5-10% more for their prescriptions. They were the lowest in Southern Arizona.
- The lowest prices currently are available on the Internet or through mail order pharmacies, where consumers can typically save 17% off of the average Arizona price.
- Consumers who shop online should look for the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site seal of approval before giving out their credit card information.
- Consumers should ask their pharmacists whether there are lower cost generic equivalents for brand name drugs they are buying.
- Consumers should ask their preferred pharmacist to match any lower price offered by a less convenient pharmacy.
- Consumers who choose to buy drugs from more than one pharmacy should always inform all such pharmacies of all drugs they are taking in order to reduce the chance of a lethal mix of drugs.
- Seniors may be entitled to substantial discounts off the cash price charged at most pharmacies and should always ask for such a discount.
- Low income consumers should ask the physicians who prescribe their drugs whether the manufacturer offers a price assistance program to needy patients.
There are many factors that lead to rising drug prices, including supply and demand, research and developmental costs of new drugs, and patents, which decrease competition and keep costs high. But you shouldn't have to pay more than anyone else. By being a savvy consumer you can protect yourself from paying too much for the prescription drugs that you need.
The Arizona Attorney General's Office will continue to follow the prescription drug market closely and make information available to consumers. Consumers who are aware of irregularities in the marketplace are encouraged to contact the Antitrust Unit at (602) 542-7752.
Information was obtained from the Arizona Attorney General's Office and excerpts were reprinted with permission.