Published October 31st, 2019 by Stephanie
Medicine isn’t something most Americans give much thought to if they’re healthy, but when illness or some other health condition sets in, the presence or absence of medicine can make a huge difference to a person’s life. Of course, because medicine can be so effective at helping us, that means that it’s not cheap. The average American, for example, is statistically like to spend an average of $1200 per year on medicine. For many, that expenditure may go up much higher depending on the type of medication and the frequency with which it must be taken.
For wealthy Americans, this isn’t an issue. For others with jobs that provide health benefits, or pay enough to get extensive medical insurance, there are ways to keep those costs under control. But even if you don’t have that kind of safety net, there are still other ways to save on medication. It requires a bit more of a coordinated effort, but it can be done. One way is to compare Rx prices.
As the phrase “compare Rx prices” implies, it’s possible to go from one pharmacy to another, look at the prices, make a comparison, and see a difference. These differences go far beyond what one pharmacy offers as a special sale price. Regular, “full price” amounts on certain prescription drugs can vary widely from one location to another, and especially one country to another. In Canada, using one famous example, insulin, which is required for diabetes treatment, is only $30. However, the same formulation, with no change in quality or amount, is $300 in the USA! Why is that?
This is the most extreme—albeit, unfortunately, real-world—example, but the reason insulin is cheaper in Canada is that their government has put laws in place the force pharmacies to maintain affordable prices for medication. The USA has no such laws in place to protect consumers with regards to medicine affordability; the laws are stacked in favor of the pharmacy companies, not the average American.
This means that pharmacies can price their medication using whatever economic factors are most beneficial to them, and affordability for customers does not have to be one of them. Because of that discretionary power, shoppers will find that the price of medication in one pharmacy can be higher by 50% or even more for the same product at a different pharmacy.
One of the first things you should do when looking at buying medication is to take your time and not do this impulsively. Hold off and prepare to do your homework. There are a few different ways you can save.
One of the largest variables that affect the pricing of medication is the location of a pharmacy. So, for example, if a pharmacy is located in an upper-class neighborhood, where the majority of residents are making over $300000 annually, prices are going to be much, much higher, because the pharmacy understands people are willing to pay higher prices to avoid driving out to another location.
However, if a pharmacy is located in a lower-income neighborhood, the pricing is going to be very different. This is because no one wants products that remain unsold, but it could also be because people running the pharmacy have ties to the community, and want to ensure that at least some medication is accessible to those in need.
This is a chief reason why it’s important to compare Rx prices from one location to the next. Even a difference of a few miles can have an adverse effect on the pricing you see from one location to another.
The size of the pharmacy is something that you also need to look at when it comes to pricing. The bigger, nationwide retail outlets have a central office that decides about pricing, and then all the branches across the country are obliged to take their “marching orders” from that central office and follow the company policy. There might be a bit of wiggle room there for the occasional local promotional activity, but a manager of a franchise outlet of Walgreens or Walmart doesn’t have final authority on the pricing of the medicine in that location, only the home office has that power.
Independently owned pharmacies, however, have full discretion. While they don’t necessarily have the “bulk buying” power of a larger, national chain, they can still adjust their pricing as and when they see fit. This can sometimes result in more competitive pricing, depending on the business you’re dealing with.
With your best chance of getting lower prices coming from comparison shopping, this still leaves open the question of the best way to do that comparison shopping. The slowest, least effective way is to visit every nearby pharmacy and make a list. The faster way to do it is to call up each pharmacy instead of visiting and ask vendors directly. A slightly faster way is, if possible, to visit the website of different pharmacies and see if they have listings for the pricing of their medications.
However, the fastest, most efficient way to compare Rx prices today is to get the software to do it. Different types of price comparison apps are available, and by using different apps, you get access to listing of many different pharmacies in your area, for a complete picture of what the pricing is like. It’s always a good idea to rely on more than one app since not all apps will have all pharmacies listed. This way, you get more choice, and better information to base your shopping decision on.
Finally, once you compare Rx prices and you know where to go for the lowest full price, it’s possible to save even more money by getting a discount applied. If you go to the USA Rx website, for example, you get anywhere from 10-75% off on your purchases when you present the card. It’s valid in all 50 states at over 60000 different pharmacies, so you’ve got many options.
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