Shopping around can pay off when it comes to prescription drugs.
A survey of Lawrence pharmacies on Thursday revealed that prices of some popular drugs can vary greatly, depending on where you shop.
"More and more people are realizing that there are differences in pricing," said Mary Tritsch, a spokeswoman for the AARP in Kansas. "If they want to lower their drug costs, they have to shop around."
Six Lawrence pharmacies responded to inquiries for the prices of five brand-name prescription drugs that treat everything from depression to arthritis.
The findings: The cost of a 30-day supply of some drugs can vary by as much as 19 percent from one pharmacy to the next -- a difference that could save more than $200 a year, for example, for a person buying Paxil to fight depression.
"We're encouraging seniors to shop around," Tritsch said. "We're finding that people are reducing their drug prices just by doing a little research."
Pharmacists at most of the businesses said other factors often made the actual sales price far lower than listed.
"With senior citizens discounts, it's a different price," said Mark Smith of Orchards Drug Store. "And with discount cards, it's cheaper yet."
Smith said less than 10 percent of prescription drug purchases were made on a cash-and-carry basis. The rest are paid through insurance plans, where companies set the rates that pharmacies receive for drugs.
"We pay up to the maximum allowance," said Graham Bailey, vice president of communications for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas. "After that we don't care if it's $5 over or $15 over."
But Bailey said a recent excursion he made to help his parents purchase prescription drugs convinced him that choosy shopping was wise.
"I can tell you from personal experience that, with some particular drugs, there can be some dramatic differences between what pharmacists charge," he said. "Without (insurance), I think it's well worth the time to go out and shop for your particular pharmaceutical products."
Bailey and Tritsch also said consumers could save money by purchasing the generic equivalent of brand-name drugs. Tritsch said the AARP knew of one woman who cut her monthly prescription costs from $96 to $36 by changing from cholesterol-fighting Lipitor to a cheaper alternative.
"It's the same thing," Bailey said. "One's got a brand name and is advertised, but the other has the same ingredients."
Pharmacists in Lawrence said they already saw price-shopping among customers.
"I get 10 calls a day checking prices," said Bill Axcell of Jayhawk Pharmacy. "It's a pretty common thing."
But Tom Wilcox of Round Corner Drug Store said many customers were looking for more than just the lowest possible price.
"There's truth to people being comfortable with pharmacists -- knowing them by name and enjoying the services," he said.
|Drug||Paxil (20 mg)||Lipitor (10 mg)||Norvasc (5 mg)||Prevacid (15 mg)||Celebrex (200 mg)|
|Pharmacy||Ailment||Depression||Cholesterol||Blood pressure||Acid reflux||Anti-inflammatory|
|Hy-Vee4000 W. Sixth St.||$93.58||$75.85||$48.49||$132.01||$95.86|
|Jayhawk Pharmacy3510 Clinton Parkway||$97.50||$79.95||$53.50||$145||$96.50|
|Medical Arts Pharmacy346 Maine||$94.90||$81.21||$53.25||$144.05||$97.22|
|Orchard's Drug1410 Kasold Dr.||$91.20||$77.51||$52||$140.35||$94.42|
|Round Corner Drug801 Mass.||$79.13||$67.33||$45.88||$122.89||$83.88|
|Walgreen Drug Store1400 W. 23rd St.||$96.09||$80.29||$55.79||$144.09||$97.49|