Survey investigates Rx prices, customer-pharmacist relationships

NORWALK, Conn. According to a survey conducted by Consumer Reports, prices of prescription drugs can vary by $100 or more for the same drug from store to store as well as within the same chain.

For the survey, the magazine called 163 pharmacies nationwide to determine price differences for four prescription drugs—three name-brand medicines and one generic.

The price for a three-month supply of Pfizer’s urinary incontinence drug Detrol ranged from $365 to $551. The price for Bristol-Myers Squibb and Sanofi-Aventis’ Plavix, a drug that prevents blood clots, ranged from $382 to $541. Prices for King Pharmaceuticals’ Levoxyl, a treatment for hypothyroidism, varied from $29 to $85. And the costs for the osteoporosis drug alendronate, the generic of Merck’s Fosamax ranged from $124 to $306, the survey found.

The survey also found that consumers shouldn't rule out independent drug stores—while they may not be the cheapest, their prices are competitive, and they offer top service.

In another part of the survey, Consumer Reports questioned 40,133 readers about their drugstore experiences. Among the findings: People asked pharmacists for advice on prescription drugs just 38 percent of the time.

That's down from 50 percent since the last survey in 2002, said Tom Marks, senior editor at Consumer Reports adding, “That's a pretty significant shift in the consumer-pharmacist relationship.”

“Consumers should consult with their pharmacists, whether they're taking prescription drugs or even over-the-counter stuff, because people think they're innocent, but the fact of the matter is they can have serious ramifications,” he said.

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