Comparison Shopping For Prescriptions Isn't Easy

Because you can't get straightforward prices over the phone.


(Each Friday Bargain Hound will look at how to save money and have fun in San Leandro and vicinity. Here is a link to our archive of similar columns on different shopping topics.)

When it comes to comparison shopping for prescription drugs there is good news, and there is bad news.

The good news is that you can save money on prescription drugs by shopping around.

The bad news is that they really make it hard.

For this test I said that I didn't have any insurance and asked for prices over the phone on three of the most commonly prescribed drugs in America: Vicodin, Lipitor and Amoxicillin.  

Should have been easy. Not!

One pharmacy wouldn’t even tell me their prices by phone.

Want to know how much you will save with a drugstore membership card?

They won't tell you over the phone. You have to go in person, with your prescription, and then decide if it is worth running around.

I did the running around for you on these three sample prescriptions.

Here's what happened when I asked about prices on generic replacements for 20 pills of 250 mg Amoxicillin, 30 pills of 10mg Lipitor and 20 tablets of Vicodin.

Remember, all of these prices are for uninsured customers.

One bright spot.

Let's start with the best. No card discounts. No games. No bait and switch. And it's an independent.

Medical Arts Pharmacy: has far and away the best prices. They just got my business. Generic Lipitor is $91.28; Vicodin is $20.94; and the Amoxicillin is a straight forward $12.51.

Medical Arts Pharmacy, 13847 E. 14th St., 357-1881

Simple, clear, transparent pricing. What a radical idea. Wonder if it will ever catch on?

Chains are variations on a theme.

The redeeming thing about the chains is that prices at each store's pharmacy are consistent.

CVS Pharmacy: Generic Vicodin is $16.89; Lipitor was $116.00; and Amoxicillin $26.29. The card member discount is about 10% on the Trust Me Plan. 

CVS Pharmacy, 1188 E14th, 351-7957                                                                                                                                                                                  : Generic Lipitor goes for $116.00 and comes down to $102.99 with the member card; Vicodin is $20.00 or $15.00 discounted; and Amoxicillin is $12.00 but comes down to $9.00 with the card.

Walgreens Drugstore, 15500 Washington, 483-3917                                                                                     

 Rite Aid Pharmacy: The generic Lipitor was a whopping $158.00; Vicodin is $24.00 and the Amoxicillin sells for $11.00. And they would not disclose their membership discount over the phone.

RiteAid Pharmacy                                                                                                                           1355 MacArthur 352-3677

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erin perez March 23, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Target has great prices for those of us un insured folks, for most of my ongoing prescriptions they are cheapest, CVS is right behind them. I have not had heath insurance for 2 years and cant get it due to a pre existing condition. I have have no issue getting prices over the phone for my prescriptions, I call around every few months.. Also note that if you have a AAA membership you get additional prescription discounts!
arthur March 23, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Have you tried using Goodrx.com? It is a price comparison site for exactly what you're looking for.
anthony March 25, 2012 at 12:21 AM
Canada still offers good competition, online searches abound. San Leandro has a program also... http://www.sanleandro.org/depts/rec/prescription_drug_discount_program/default.asp


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