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How much do pharmacy prices really vary?

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 price differences can be substantial, especially for someone looking to save money. In other words, if you haven’t shopped around for the best pharmacy prices, you could be paying too much (even on generic drugs).

A 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 more than $140 within a single zip code.

Why are pharmacy prices so different?

A number of factors play into how pharmacies price their drugs. 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.

RELATED: What makes prescriptions cost so much?

How to compare pharmacy prices

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 copay could be very different (and not always cheaper!) than the cash price. Often, pharmacies won’t give you a copay price until you arrive with a 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 drug search. 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, you might find an equivalent—or better deal—with SingleCare. When you check prices at singlecare.com, you know you’re getting the best price possible. It lets you find which pharmacy has the best prices for your prescription—and compare price history—before heading to the pharmacy.

RELATED: How to save on Walgreens prescriptions

Most healthcare providers recommend that you get all of your prescriptions from one physician and pharmacist. When you receive all medications in one place, you’re less likely to experience a dangerous drug-drug interaction. Your healthcare provider has a more holistic view of your health, and can advise you safely on supplements, over-the-counter treatments, and additional drugs that could fit into your treatment plan.

SingleCare works directly with pharmacies to provide great savings on FDA-approved prescription drugs. With our coupons, you can save up to 80% on your medications. 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.