Consumers can score more than deep discounts on bulk items at Costco—they also can score the best savings on prescription drugs compared to other pharmacies.
According to new analysis by Consumer Reports, prescription drugs vary widely in price depending on where you shop. But 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.
For example, a month’s supply of generic Lipitor, the anti-cholesterol drug, will set you back $17 at Costco, but $150 at CVS. For the antidepressant Lexapro, Consumer Reports found a month’s supply available of the generic version at a cost of $7 at Costco and $126 at CVS.
Failing to comparison shop could result in overpaying by as much as $100 a month or even more, depending on the drug.
“A consumer can’t assume that the price of their prescription medications is set in stone,” says Lisa Gill, editor, prescription drugs, Consumer Reports. “One of the big takeaways is that you have to ask for the best price and see if your pharmacist will work with you. Especially for the independent pharmacies, if they want to retain your business and loyalty, they will help you get the best price.”
One reason for the wild cost fluctuations may be that different types of stores have different business incentives, Gil 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.”
Consumer Reports conducted its analysis by using “secret shoppers” who called more than 200 pharmacies throughout the United States to get retail prices—what you pay without using insurance—on a month’s supply of five blockbuster drugs that have recently become available as generics: Actos for diabetes; Lexapro for depression; Lipitor for high cholesterol; Plavix for blot clots; and Singulair for asthma.
The report found a difference in price of $749 between the priciest and the cheapest retailers.
Rite Aid and Target were also pricey, the report found.
The consumer group urged shoppers to compare prices and ask for the best price.
Also read: Five tips for saving on prescription drugs