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How Much do Prescription Prices Really Vary?

Cropped SingleCare logo By | January 20, 2016

When it comes to prescription drug costs, all pharmacies are not created equal. If you haven’t shopped around for the best price, you might be spending too much even on generic drugs.

Finding the right pharmacy to fill your prescription is a more complicated task than you might think. Some consumers are surprised to find that customary prices for even the most common prescription drugs can vary from one pharmacy to another — and those prices differences can be substantial, especially for someone looking to save money.

A recent pricing survey from Consumer Reports revealed that prescription drug prices can vary by as much as 10 times between pharmacies, even within the same city. Secret shoppers called over 200 pharmacies in six cities to ask the prices of several generic drugs to collect this information. They discovered that a drug like Singulair, an allergy medication, can range in price from $15 to over $140 within a single zip code.

Why Are Prices So Different?

A number of factors play into how pharmacies price their drugs. According to Express Scripts, this can include their business costs (overhead), profit margins, and prices charged by pharmaceutical companies. Those prices are proprietary information, which means they’re usually kept confidential. Since it varies from one pharmacy to another, there’s no easy way for a consumer to know how much a drug is marked up before hitting the shelves.

Finding the Best Price For Good Health

These prices mean picking your pharmacy is more work than just searching for the closest one on Google Maps. You can act as your own secret shopper and call pharmacies to ask for prices. However, if you have insurance, your co-pay could be very different (and not always cheaper!) than the shelf price. Often, pharmacies won’t give you a co-pay price until you arrive with prescription in hand, which makes shopping around inconvenient and time-consuming.

Another way to save yourself a lot of time, energy and money is with SingleCare’s new online prescription search tool. Now you can know who has the best price of your prescription before heading to the pharmacy. Type in the name of a prescription drug and your zip code to see a map of prices in your area. If you’re a fan of your local pharmacy’s $4/$10 program for generics, don’t worry: the results compare SingleCare’s direct pricing (which often times beats the pharmacy’s price) and the local pharmacy’s rates so you get the best deal possible.

SingleCare works directly with pharmacies to provide great savings on all prescription drugs. Members can save 50% on their prescriptions. Taking care of yourself doesn’t have to mean sacrificing your budget for expensive prescriptions and, with SingleCare, you’ll save valuable time as well.