Tuesday Tip – Saving on Prescriptions

As you know from previous coupon tips, I am fiscally cautious (I know my husband is laughing loudly over this!). But seriously, I am frugal. I shop around for the best prices, take advantage of sales, clip coupons, etc. in an effort to make sure I’m not spending money needlessly. I guess that’s why when a friend sent around an e-mail about saving on prescriptions, I thought it would be good to share it with you for various reasons.

The e-mail my friend sent around is at the bottom of this blog for you to read.

My friend checked this out and noted that by her calculations she would be able to save nearly $60 a year by using Costco for her prescriptions even though she was not a member. My friend was able to order a prescription she used regularly and instead of paying the $30 copay for 90 pills, she was able to purchase 100 pills from Costco for $10.24. She did it online and got free shipping to boot!

You can check out the veracity of the Costco Prescription E-mail at Snopes by following this link:
http://www.snopes.com/medical/drugs/generic.asp

There is one caution I would make about the hyperbole in the e-mail about 569,958% markups and the like.

Any statistician will tell you that it’s possible to skew numbers to make your argument. In this case, it is inaccurate to compare the cost of active ingredients to the price of non-generic medications.

Why? For starters, it takes someone years and years of research to discover how to combine those active ingredients into a useful and safe product. Case in point: Many years ago the laws regarding patents had to be changed because many pharmaceutical patents were expiring before the testing of the products had been completed and the products had been approved by the FDA. The term for patents prior to this extension: 20 years.

Imagine taking 20 years – yes TWENTY – years to develop a product and have its use approved by an administrative body. Imagine the cost of research, testing and prosecuting the FDA approval and patents.

Of course, those are extreme situations. The average time for approval of a new drug is approximately 10 years at about a cost of anywhere from $100 to $230 million dollars according to Kevin Oliver in his paper on Drug Approval in the United States (click here for the full text of Oliver’s paper on Drug Approval). By the way, the paper also helps to explain why drugs are cheaper in other countries, namely, because of the time it takes for the U.S. government to approve a drug versus approval by governments in other countries.

But back to the reason for this post. In fact, you can buy certain pharmaceutical products at much lower costs using Costco even if you are not a member. Like anything else, you should shop around to see if they offer the best price. Also check with your local independent pharmacist who oftentimes can provide additional information on the the best prices. Regardless of where you buy your prescription medicine, be sure to tell your pharmacist about all medicines you are taking, including non-prescription drugs and over-the-counter herbal/natural remedies, to avoid dangerous side effects and interactions.

The Original Text of the Costco Prescription E-mail

Costco – Unbelievable!

Make sure you read to the end. You will be amazed.

Let’s hear it for Costco! (This is just mind-boggling!)

Make sure you read all the way past the list of the drugs. The woman that signed below is a Budget Analyst out of federal Washington , DC offices.

Did you ever wonder how much it costs a drug company for the active ingredient in prescription medications? Some people think it must cost a lot, since many drugs sell for more than $2.00 per tablet. We did a search of offshore chemical synthesizers that supply the active ingredients found in drugs approved by the FDA. As we have revealed in past issues of XXXXXXX a significant percentage of drugs sold in the United States contain active ingredients made in other countries. In our independent investigation of how much profit drug companies really make, we obtained the actual price of active ingredients used in some of the most popular drugs sold in America .

Celebrex:100 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets): $130.27
Cost of general active ingredients: $0.60
Percent markup: 21,712%

Claritin:10 mg
Consumer Price (100 tablets): $215.17
Cost of general active ingredients: $0.71
Percent markup: 30,306%

Keflex:250 mg
Consumer Price (100 tablets): $157.39
Cost of general active ingredients: $1.88
Percent markup: 8,372%

Lipitor:20 mg
Consumer Price (100 tablets): $272.37
Cost of general active ingredients: $5.80
Percent markup: 4,696%

Norvasc:10 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets): $188.29
Cost of general active ingredients: $0.14
Percent markup: 134,493%

Paxil:20 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets): $220.27
Cost of general active ingredients: $7.60
Percent markup: 2,898%

Prevacid:30 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets): $44.77
Cost of general active ingredients: $1.01
Percent markup: 34,136%

Prilosec: 20 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets): $360.97
Cost of general active ingredients $0.52
Percent markup: 69,417%

Prozac:20 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets) : $247.47
Cost of general active ingredients: $0.11
Percent markup: 224,973%

Tenormin:50 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets): $104.47
Cost of general active ingredients: $0.13
Percent markup: 80,362%

Vasotec:10 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets): $102.37
Cost of general active ingredients: $0.20
Percent markup: 51,185%

Xanax:1 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets) : $136.79
Cost of general active ingredients: $0.024
Percent markup: 569,958%

Zestril:20 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets) $89.89
Cost of general active ingredients $3.20
Percent markup: 2,809%

Zithromax:600 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets): $1,482.19
Cost of general active ingredients: $18.78
Percent markup: 7,892%

Zocor:40 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets): $350.27
Cost of general active ingredients: $8.63
Percent markup: 4,059%

Zoloft:50 mg
Consumer price: $206.87
Cost of general active ingredients: $1.75
Percent markup: 11,821%

Since the cost of prescription drugs is so outrageous, I thought everyone should know about this.
It pays to shop around! This helps to solve the mystery as to why they can afford to put a Walgreen’s on every corner. On Monday night, Steve Wilson, an investigative reporter for Channel 7 News in Detroit , did a story on generic drug prices gouging by pharmacies. He found in his investigation that some of these generic drugs were marked up as much as 3,000% or more. So often we blame the drug companies for the high cost of drugs, and usually rightfully so. But in this case, the fault clearly lies with the pharmacies themselves. For example if you had to buy a prescription drug, and bought the name brand, you might pay $100 for 100 pills.

The pharmacist might tell you that if you get the generic equivalent, they would only cost $80, making you think you are saving $20. What the pharmacist is not telling you is that those 100 generic pills may have only cost him $10!

At the end of the report, one of the anchors asked Mr. Wilson whether or not there were any pharmacies that did not adhere to this practice, and he said that Costco consistently charged little over their cost for the generic drugs.

I went to the Costco site, where you can look up any drug, and get its online price. It says that the in-store prices are consistent with the online prices. I was appalled. Just to give you one example from my own experience I had to use the drug Compazine which helps prevent nausea in chemo patients.

I used the generic equivalent, which cost $54.99 for 60 pills at CVS. I checked the price at Costco, and I could have bought 100 pills for $19.89. For 145 of my pain pills, I paid $72.57. I could have got 150 at Costco for $28.08.

I would like to mention, that although Costco is a ‘membership’ type store, you do NOT have to be a member to buy prescriptions there as it is a federally regulated substance. You just tell them at the door that you wish to use the pharmacy, and they will let you in.

3 thoughts on “Tuesday Tip – Saving on Prescriptions”

  1. Sams club has awesome deals on their drugs too. It’s crazy what this stuff costs. Always be mindful of your insurance ‘formulary’ drugs. If you see they aren’t covering what should be covered spend the hour on the phone to witch and complain. You’ll find the right veribage to make the insurance pay for your RX. It’s all such a game. And keep in mind, billions of dollars of meds are given away every year. Who pays for that? You and me. Our insurance is higher, our deductables, our bills. UGH!!! 😈

  2. Interesting on the cost difference!
    I wanted to mention another reason drugs cost more than what we may think they should…the expense of researching drugs that never make it to market. For every drug we see on a shelf there are no telling how many never made it out of clinical trials for one reason or another. That expense is being absorbed by the drugs that do make it to market. Developing a drug is not a sure business. 🙂
    Which isn’t to say I think drugs are priced fairly. Honestly I don’t know. Just adding a bit to the calculations here.
    Lori

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