PharmacyChecker Blog

Helping Americans Get The Truth About Prescription Drug Savings
Published by:

Struggling To Afford Meds, Americans Spend More On Drugs than Other Countries

As recently reported by PBS, America continues to outspend other rich countries on pharmaceuticals, spending almost $1,000 per person on prescription drugs in 2013. Canada, the second highest spender, spent about $700 per person. This is despite one in five Americans skipping doses or a script due to cost, as well as an extremely high percentage (84% in 2011) of prescriptions being written for generic medications.

So what’s up? Well, for one, our drug prices are much higher. Our latest analysis of brand-name drugs sold by international online pharmacies found that their prices were 88% lower when compared to a pharmacy in New York City.

Major drug price differences aren’t the only reason for higher U.S. spending. PBS explains that Americans, sadly, fill more scripts due to higher rates of obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure, which of course equates with greater numbers of prescription drug purchases. Another factor is that it’s relatively easy for drug companies to get new drugs approved and in to the U.S. market.

I was a bit surprised that PBS didn’t mention direct-to-consumer advertising as a possible reason for why we use more drugs. New Zealand is the only other country that allows direct-to-consumer advertising, but they have much lower drug prices than the U.S.,  due to government regulations.

For the newly insured, Obamacare might mean lower prices for consumers, but that doesn’t mean overall national spending will go down. Lower out of pocket costs from better co-pay or co-insurance models will likely just mean higher premiums and increased reimbursement to drug manufacturers by insurance companies. Look at it this way: if you spend $20 less on a drug per month, but your premium is $20 more, you’re not really any better off.

Interestingly, U.S. drug spending decreased slightly last year, thanks largely to patent expirations resulting in more generic drugs penetrating the market. While PBS mentions that the decline is expected to last another 2-3 years, I’m not so optimistic. For one, generic drug prices are rising, sometimes by thousands of percent. Second, more coverage under Obamacare means more prescriptions, and naturally more spending. Only time will tell…

Tagged with: , ,

Local Twin Cities Pharmacist Is An Inspiration to Americans Struggling with Prescription Drug Costs

Tom Sengupta, pharmacist at Schneider Drug

A recent story on PBS made it pretty clear to me that you ought to check out your local mom and pop pharmacy before going to a big chain drugstore or an online pharmacy. Not only might you find better drug prices, but you could also be supporting the business of someone who really cares about you. I’m talking about people like Tom Sengupta, a pharmacist at Schneider Drug in Minnesota, who puts patients before maximizing profits, unlike some of the big pharmacy corporations.

Carol Thompson used to pay over $400 for a brand name drug, but once it went generic the price plummeted to $10 at her local Costco. That’s what we’ve come to except and need from our generic medication: much lower prices. Curious about prices at other pharmacies, Ms. Thompson called around and found some other pharmacies were charging about $400!

Mr. Sengupta is not the kind of guy who would charge you $400 for a generic medication. He explains that big chain pharmacies often determine drug prices for generics by simply charging less than the brand name drug, rather than a small mark-up from the wholesale drug price of the generic, like Schneider Drug does. Sometimes their pricing can even depend on the circumstances of the individual buying. Mr. Sengupta says: “My pricing is based on the person I’m talking to.  You know, because if they need something, this is my responsibility to provide that to them.  I’m not losing any money.”

Schneider Drug

PBS reported that Schneider Drug charges $14 for 30 pills of Letrozole 2.5mg. We just placed a phone call to a “local” chain pharmacy and they quoted a price of $599 – over 4,000% higher! Outraged by the pricing policies of some big chain pharmacies, Mr. Sengupta stated: “How could you justify that?  You know?  If you had any morality – we don’t need to make money like that.  We have to ask, what’s happening?  Where is their moral compass?”

So next time you have to fill a script check out your local independent pharmacy’s price. And if you’re visiting the Twin Cities and need a prescription medication, pay a visit to Mr. Sengupta!

Tagged with: , , ,