Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Generic Prescription Pricing: Where's My Discount?

Kaisernetwork.org has a review of a WSJ article that ran yesterday showing how generic prescription drugs are often not saving the consumer much over the brand name version.

The example given is Zocor, priced at $149.99 for thirty 20mg tablets, now competing with generic simvastatin which was being sold anywhere from $125 to $139.99. When called on it, Walgreens, CVS and drugstore.com dropped their prices.

Walgreens went down to $89.99, CVS to $79.99, and drugstore.com dropped to... get this... $27.99!


That's a cut from $4.17 to 93 cents per pill.

Even more amazing, all three of them claimed they dropped the price as part of their regular price reviews.


The New York State Attorney General's Web site has a prescription drug price compare tool that allows you to compare prices on a number of medications.

Just for fun, I punched in my ZIP code and reviewed the prices for the same thirty 20mg prescription.

For Zocor, at the pharmacies in and around my ZIP code, I have a range of $100.02 up to $199.28, which works out to $3.37 to $6.64 a pill.

I then went to pharmacychecker.com and found a range of prices for 20mg Zocor from $1.01 to $5.17 a pill.

Admittedly, some of those prices were for larger purchases, the $1.01 price was for 90, and most of the cheaper prices were from Canadian pharmacies, but still, come on. If pharmacy A can sell it for a buck then pharmacy B probably doesn't need to be selling it at $6 a pop.

To compare drug prices in your area, visit Consumer Health Ratings and see if they have a prescription drug price site in your state.


The flip side.

I'm not 100% certain Zocor makes for a fair comparison. I'm sure I know a lot less than the Wall Street Journal about these things, but am I wrong in thinking that Merck slashed prices on Zocor in an effort to retain market share once the patent ran out?

If so, then there shouldn't be that huge of a gap between brand and generic pricing, in this instance. Right? If you know better, comment please.

However, according to this release from January 2006, at least one watchdog - the NY State Alliance for Retired Americans - has been watchdogging the issue for a while.


Disclosures and Disclaimers


My employer is compensated through funding to provide analytical research, technology solutions, and Web-based public and private health care performance reports by the State of New York, the State of Illinois, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Commonwealth Fund and Bridges to Excellence. I am not being compensated by any of these organisations to create articles for or make edits to this Web site or any other medium; and all posts authored by me are as an individual and do not represent my employer or the agencies I work for.