Health & Medical

Prescription Drug Prices Vary by Pharmacy: Miami Herald Survey Finds

Prices for prescription drugs, particularly generic versions, vary greatly among South Florida pharmacies, according to the results of a survey of 20 online and South Florida pharmacies by the Miami Herald. According to the survey, prices were as much as 10 times higher at some sources than at others.

Costco had the lowest prices for the cholesterol-lowering drug lovastatin, the blood-pressure medication enalapril and the anti-depressant fluoxetine, the generic version of Prozac, the Herald reports.

In comparison, Walmart’s prices for lovastatin and fluoxetine were about 50% higher. Costco’s price for Vasotec was about one-fourth of Walgreens’ price for the drug, and Costco’s price for fluoxetine was about one-tenth of Walgreens’ price.

Costco CEO Jim Sinegal said that the price variations could be attributed to the store’s limit on the product price markups; some competitors instead calculate costs for generic drugs based on a percentage markdown from the cost of the branded equivalent, according to Sinegal.

For brand-name drugs, such as Pfizer’s cholesterol-lowering Lipitor, a three-month supply was cheapest online, where customers saved $1 per pill over local prices at the U.S. site Drugstore.com and nearly $2 per pill from a Canadian site (Dorschner, Miami Herald, 7/6).

The survey also found that, unlike their competitors’ prices, Walgreens’ and Winn-Dixie’s prices varied by location; prices in poorer neighborhoods were higher than elsewhere in Miami-Dade County. Prices for a 30-day supply of 40-milligram Lipitor pills varied from $112.99 to $117.49 in Walgreens stores and from $113.95 to $116.95 in Winn-Dixie stores.

Michael Polzin, a spokesperson for Illinois-based Walgreens, said prices are “based on the cost of doing business” at each location and said that in poorer neighborhoods, people tend to buy merchandise in smaller quantities, creating a larger ratio of store personnel to sales.

Winn-Dixie spokesperson Joanne Gage said prices were set according to “competitive price checks.” Erik Gordon, a marketing professor at the University of Florida, said that the discrepancies are “fairly typical” because stores in poorer neighborhoods tend to incur more losses through theft and tend to have higher security systems. He added that often, poorer areas are not served by businesses.

Walgreens’ and Winn-Dixie’s main competitor, Publix, do not have stores in the neighborhood with the highest prices (Dorschner, Miami Herald, 7/6).

See our column on buying from Canadian drug stores and getting cheap and free medicine from pharmaceutical companies in Canada: Your Prescription for Lower Drug Prices

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