We can’t explain why our prices are FIFTEEN TIMES other pharmacies ?

US: Mayo: What costs $29.99 to $438? Same darn pillsFound: Mon Jan 26 16:01:39 2015 PST
Source: Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
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What costs $29.99 to $438? Same darn pills Mayo: From $29.99 to $438 for same pills; can anyone explain our screwy health system? – Sun Sentinel

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Mayo: What costs $29.99 to $438? Same darn pills * Drugs and Medicines

* Medicare

* CVS Health

Michael MayoSouth Florida Sun-Sentinelmmayo​@sun-sentinel.com

Mayo: A tale from the front lines of our screwy, incomprehensible health-care system

Mayo: From $438 to $29.99 for same generic drug? ‘It boggles my mind,’ says retiree

How could a product sell for $438 in one store and $29.99 a few blocks away? It’s a mystery that retired dentist Robert Fradkin is still trying to figure out.

“It boggles my mind,” said Fradkin, 77, of Delray Beach. “It just goes to show how screwed up the whole system is.”

The product in question: a 90-day supply of the cholesterol drug atorvastatin, the generic version of Lipitor.

Fradkin got a shock the other week when he went to fill his prescription at a local Walgreens. He was told his supply of 20-mg pills would cost $438. Then he checked with a local CVS, where he was told his prescription would cost $414.

Finally, he went to Sav A Lot, a pharmacy on Jog Road. He got his pills for $29.99.

“Now I know how Walgreens is making the money to build a store on every corner,” Fradkin quipped. He called the price disparity “ridiculous.” In England, a 3-month supply of the same generic drug sells for roughly $6.

Fradkin is on Medicare, the federal health-care program for those over 65, but he does not have supplemental drug coverage, known as Medicare Part D. That’s because he’s a veteran, and he can get his prescriptions filled reasonably at a local VA clinic. In the past, he’s had his generic Lipitor filled at the VA clinic for $9 a month.

But he said he sometimes goes to chain pharmacies for convenience’s sake.

“If you don’t have insurance, you’re really at their mercy,” Fradkin said.

I got the same shocking lesson at my pharmacy last week. I switched insurance plans this year, so before I could sort things out with my new card, I was quoted the “cash claim” (uninsured) price. A one-month supply of my daughter’s chewable generic Singulair asthma medication: $154.95. A one-month supply of my 10-mg generic Lipitor: $64.95.

The prices with insurance: $9.78 and $4.68.

When Fradkin was quoted the $438 price at his Walgreens, he called over a manager and said, “Something is wrong; this can’t be. It’s a generic. It’s a common drug.”

We’re not talking about an airline seat (whose prices can also fluctuate wildly) or a television set. We’re talking about drugs prescribed by doctors for health reasons. What happens to someone that doesn’t have a VA option or isn’t savvy enough to comparison shop?

A spokesman for Walgreens, Phil Caruso, wrote by email that “more than 95 percent of our patients purchase prescriptions using some form of insurance coverage, including Medicare Part D.” He said customers who aren’t on Medicare or Medicaid can sign up for the company’s Prescription Savings Club for discounts on 8,000 generic and name-brand drugs. The club price for a 90-day supply of generic Lipitor: $141.97.

A spokesman for CVS, Mike DeAngelis, said the company offers a discount club that offers a 90-day supply of another generic cholesterol drug (lovastatin) for $11.99, plus $15 annual enrollment fee.

As to the broader question, why the same product can vary in price by a factor of 14 for an uninsured person, the companies were mum.

We cannot comment on a price comparison between competitors because different pharmacies’ varying business models may affect the prices they charge,” CVS’ DeAngelis wrote by email.

“Crazy,” Fradkin said.

And no cure in sight.

mmayo@sunsentinel.com, 954-356-4508.

2 Responses

  1. Isn’t this true for most of healthcare? Ever look at your explanation of benefits for adjusted X-Ray charges, ER visits, surgeries, blood tests? They are going to have to make up the losses on those $2.00 to $3.00 prescriptions somehow. It would really be interesting to see the price spread in how much insurers say they pay for medications vs. what they actually pay the pharmacy in certain cases.

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